April 1 was an unusually hot and windy day across Minnesota; conditions that spawned several house fires.
One St. Paul family lost their home to flames that day but all 10 of the people inside survived, thanks largely to the lifesaving efforts of Donnell Gibson. Gibson was recognized by the city Tuesday with the St. Paul Fire Department's highest honor, the Meritorious Service Award, FOX 9 reports.
Gibson, 29, was on his way to work at the Rice Street Recreation Center in St. Paul when he saw three children standing in front of a burning home on Front Street.
By the time he made a U-turn and came back to help, the children had gone back into their home. Gibson explained to the Pioneer Press that when he followed them to convince them to leave the burning house, he found two women inside, as well.
Once safe, one of the women indicated there were more people inside, some of whom were apparently sleeping upstairs. Gibson wound up making several trips into the home, and tells WCCO "I was not going to leave without everybody leaving with me."
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WCCO says city officials have lost contact with the family that was displaced by the fire, so they did not attend Tuesday's ceremony.
The fire was attributed to winds that downed a power line and quickly fanned the ensuing sparks.
KSTP notes that the Meritorious Service Award normally goes to professional firefighters – although last year it was also presented to a civilian, 16-year-old Ricardo Martinez, who used a ladder to climb to the roof of a burning duplex and pull a man to safety.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman joined Fire Chief Tim Butler at Tuesday's presentation to Gibson. Coleman had also cited Gibson's bravery when he delivered his State of the City speech this spring, MinnPost reported.