Tucson firefighter to receive two awards of heroism

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Dozens of Tucson firefighters sprang into action last July when a LifeNet air ambulance went down in a midtown neighborhood.

But one in particular risked his life to try and save crew members Alex Kelly, Brenda French and Parker Summons.

July 28 of last year started off pretty normal for Tucson firefighter Tyler Menke.

"We all come in at the same time, do the same duties and we run calls in between what our normal duties are.  That day it just happened to be an extraordinary call," said Menke.

That call came into Engine 5.

Menke was a part of the crew of firefighters that were first on the scene. They knew something wasn't right, because of the cloud of smoke that could be seen near the helicopter crash site.

"It was on the opposite side of the truck.  I turned the corner, there was a large plum of smoke and a good deal of fire.  You could see it was involved in a backyard," said Menke.

As the Iowa native prepared to start fighting the fire, he spotted someone.

"I peeked over the fence into the backyard and I could see an individual laying right almost involved. His legs were still involved.  He was actually trying to extricate himself and he wasn't able to," said Menke.

In the blink of an eye, Menke risked his life ran into the fire and pulled a victim out.

His captain at the time, Mike Garcia, saw the whole thing unfold right in front of him.

"He ran into the ball of fire.  All I could see was a ball of fire, to a point where i couldn't see him anymore.  And then a couple seconds later i see him dragging out the first victim," said Garcia.

Menke and his team would also remove the other two victims.  One person died at the scene, the other two were taken to a hospital, where the families of those victims were able to say their last goodbye.

"Oh, I have written several times, that's the most heroic thing that I have actually ever been able to witness.  He just walked right into it.  There was no regard for his own safety and no regard for anything," said Garcia.

For his heroic efforts, Menke will receive two awards, one for Firefighter of the Year in Arizona and a Heroes Day award from UMC.