If you’re the one whose life or property is saved, it is a big deal. But there are those who work in jobs where saving life, limb and an occasional cat stranded in a tree is pretty much normal and routine duty.
Since it’s their job to look out for the welfare and well-being of their community, Las Vegas firefighters were wondering what all the fuss was about after administering life- saving CPR to a heart attack victim.
Lt. Samuel Lujan, engineer Louie Mares and firefighter Rodney Sauter of the Las Vegas Fire Department received the Phoenix Award, one of the city’s highest honors, for their part in saving a man’s life.
The Phoenix Award recognizes department staff members who successfully resuscitate patients from respiratory or cardiac arrest or major life-threatening trauma.
“The team we have here is awesome,” Sauter said. “I really enjoy the teamwork and providing service to the community. It gives me a sense of being, a sense accomplishment to be devoted to service to the community.”
Sauter said he was inspired to get into structural firefighting after the tragic events of Sept. 11. He worked for the National Park Service for 13 years on the East Coast, but said he wanted to give back to his community in some way. So he volunteered at a firehouse in West Virginia where he became an EMT and a full-time firefighter.
Sauter and his wife, Marie, came to Las Vegas three years ago when she was hired as superintendent at Fort Union National Monument.
Lt. Lujan is an 11-year veteran of the Las Vegas Fire Department, before that he was a volunteer with Company 1 for three years. After graduating from Robertson High School, he joined the Navy, where he got his first taste of firefighting.
“I was in damage control while serving in the military, I was also part of a helicopter fire team, and I was just naturally drawn to this kind of work. It’s very satisfying to know you are helping keep the public safe,” Lujan said.
Lujan said he started from the ranks and worked his way up to lieutenant by taking specialized classes. He said one of his favorite activities is the fire prevention program, which allows him to go to local schools and businesses to educate people about fire safety.
Engineer Mares grew up in Mora and Las Vegas and has been in the fire service for 24 years. He fought fires with the Forest Service for 13 years before joining the Las Vegas Fire Department, where he has worked for the last 10 years.
“I don’t know that I should get an award to do what I get paid to do; this is what I do for a living. We all appreciate the recognition, but it could have been any of the other teams that got this call, and they would have been just as responsive and professional,” Mares said. “I just love my job and can’t see myself doing anything else for the rest of my life. It’s so rewarding.”
Sauter agreed, “It was a team effort, not only the team you see here, but the guys from Superior Ambulance, the Las Vegas city police and of course the dispatch crew. It’s all about teamwork.”
Mares said credit should also go to Lt. Lujan and all the other EMT instructors who stay on top of the latest medical advances.
Earlier this year, Lujan, Sauter and Mares responded to an emergency call where a man was not breathing.
In a letter to Mayor Tony Marquez, Public Safety Committee member Ron Wooten-Green wrote, “Using their Emergency Medical Technician training these highly professional firefighters performed emergency treatment and CPR. Upon arrival of advanced medical care givers (Superior Ambulance personnel), they continued to assist in this individual’s care during transport and until the individual was admitted to the hospital. These three firefighters gave a citizen of this city another chance to live, similar to the mythical Phoenix bird, reborn anew to live again.”
Fire Chief Phillip Mares said Evan Reese and Robert Young with Superior Ambulance worked hand in hand with his firefighters to save a life during the medical emergency. He said they deserve a lot of credit.
“It should be noted that all our firefighters who are medically trained to respond to these types of calls on a daily basis, and the same effort is given on every call. Every man and woman in the Las Vegas Fire Department want to make a difference in their community, and their overall goal is to save lives, whether it’s on a fire call or a medical call,” Chief Mares said.
Lujan said with two fire stations, Las Vegas firefighters are able to respond to a call within five minutes.
“With our station here on Legion Drive and the E. Romero Hose and Fire Company, we have the city covered pretty well.”