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Orange Firefighters Hailed as a Hero for Role in Rescuing 13-Year-Old Boy

June 10, 2024
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Orange Firefighters Hailed as a Hero for Role in Rescuing 13-Year-Old Boy
Firefighter was on vacation when his training kicked in

Tom Bartiss has responded to more than his share of emergency calls as a member of the Orange and West Haven fire departments, but emergencies were the furthest thing from his mind as he and his wife relaxed in Mexico. But when he saw a boy in trouble by the resort swimming pool, there was no hesitation.

“When you’re trained, you’re trained,” he said, recounting the story.

Bartiss, an active firefighter and chaplain of the Orange Volunteer Fire Department, was on vacation with his wife, Ann, at a resort outside of Cancun, Mexico. The pair was enjoying dinner when Ann noticed “a commotion” outside by the pool.

“My wife said there’s little feet out there and they’re working on him,” recalled Bartiss. That’s when instinct kicked in and Bartiss dashed to the child’s side. Another bystander had just started CPR. 

“I said you do compressions and I’ll get the breaths in,” he recalled. “I kept looking at his eyes. They were almost normal. I said we’ve got a chance.”

Bartiss said he and the women did CPR on the child for about 20 minutes. At times, the child seemed to moan, but there was no pulse. They continued compressions and rescue breathing.

Finally, a doctor and a pediatric ambulance arrived.  An automatic external defibrillator indicated no shock needed. The doctor and other emergency personnel began administering medications to the child. Finally, the AED indicated it was time to shock the child. After two shocks, the team found a pulse.

“He started coming around,” Bartiss said. The child was coughing, but not coughing up water. The ambulance whisked the child away to a pediatric hospital in Cancun. Bartiss noted that the city has very modern medical and emergency medical facilities. 

Three days later, the child was back at the resort.

Like most first-responder experiences, this was nothing like what TV programs show. There was no dramatic music, just two strangers desperately working as a team. And there have been no medals, no joyous reunions. Other than a quick thank you from the resort, there was no recognition from anyone. But that’s not what’s important to Bartiss. After the firefighter’s instincts were no longer needed, the chaplain’s instincts kicked in.

“If that woman wasn’t there and started CPR before I did, I don’t think he would have made it,” said Bartiss. “I was just in the right place at the right time. I’m so grateful I was there. I hope I gave the kid a long, good life. God definitely has a plan.”

An Orange firefighter for about eight years, Bartiss was a career firefighter in West Haven for about 28 years, retiring as a captain. After training to become an Episcopal deacon, Bartiss worked as a chaplain at Griffin Hospital in Derby for eight years.

“Tom is a great firefighter and a wonderful part of the Orange Fire Department,” said Fire Chief Vaughan Dumas. “Whether he’s working at the scene of an emergency or talking quietly with a firefighter about something they’ve seen or something going on in their lives, Tom always applies all his skill, talent and compassion. We’re very proud of what Tom did in Mexico. We’re not surprised, though, because he is the consummate firefighter.”

About the Orange Volunteer Fire Association

The Orange Volunteer Fire Association provides fire protection to residents and businesses in Orange and, through mutual aid, to surrounding towns. Members receive training in fire suppression, rescue, hazardous materials response, homeland security issues and other emergency services. 

Operating strictly with revenues from fund-raisers and donations, the Orange Volunteer Fire Department is one of the few remaining all-volunteer incorporated fire departments in Connecticut. Active members are on call to serve the community on a 24-hour/seven-day basis, responding from stations on Orange Center Road and Boston Post Road. 

In addition, the fire company offers public education services including lectures, demonstrations, and training. For information about membership, donations or public education, call (203) 891-4703, click on https://www.orangevfd.org/ or find us on Facebook.

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