PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY – Each year the America Legion presents its National Medal of Valor Award to a first responder who risked his or her life to save the life of others.
On Aug. 23, in Rio, Nev., Prince George's County Assistant Fire Chief Darren Ware, with 22 years of service, was named the American Legion National Firefighter of the Year for his actions while rescuing a woman from a car fire in April 2016 in Brandywine.
On April 20, 2016, Ware was on Route 301 near Brandywine Road returning from the funeral of County Paramedic John Ulmschneider when he came across a vehicle on fire with a woman trapped inside.
“When I pulled up, I saw the car on fire with a woman still inside. I had to do something quickly,” Ware said.
As Ware reached the vehicle, retired Deputy Fire Chief Tyrone Wells and another man also stopped to help Ware rescue the woman from the car.
“When I got to the car I noticed the doors were locked, so I hit on the window,” Ware said. “I told the woman to open the door, but realized that wasn't going to happen because she was experiencing a medical emergency. We had to break through the passenger’s side window so I could climb into the car. I unhooked her seat belt, picked her up and handed her out through the window to safety.”
Within minutes of removing the woman from the car, it became fully engulfed in flames.
“From experience, I know how fast vehicles can go up in flames, so time was of the essence,” he said.
Fire units from Prince George's County arrived on the scene and were able to extinguish the fire within a few minutes. The woman was transported to a local hospital where she was treated and released.
“I am very humbled in receiving this award from the America Legion,” Ward said. “But it was a team effort. I was doing what I was trained to do.”