Ottawa firefighter honoured by Gov. Gen.

An Ottawa fire captain who saved his crew from a burning building during the Forward Avenue blaze four years ago was awarded a medal of bravery on Friday by the Governor General.

An Ottawa fire captain who saved his crew from a burning building during the Forward Avenue blaze four years ago was awarded a medal of bravery on Friday by the Governor General.

Capt. John Peter Chatterton was among 42 brave Canadians honoured by Gov. Gen. David Johnston at a special ceremony.

Chatterton was recognized for his leadership on Feb. 12, 2007, the day he guided his team of two — a nine-year veteran and probationary rookie — through a burning home at Forward Avenue to search for possible occupants still trapped inside.

But a blast of flames and rapidly intensifying heat, combined with thick black smoke, suddenly blocked the team's exit path downstairs.

Instinct took over, Chatterton said, and he ordered his crew to jump first out of the third-storey window while he laid on the floor, his own helmet and radio equipment melting amid soaring temperatures.

"My father was a firefighter," Chatterton said Friday. "He was a fire chief, and I learned that at a very young age: If you bring them there, you make sure they get out."

Only once the two junior firefighters leapt to safety did the then 47-year-old vacate the home.

"I broke my femur, cracked my pelvis, shattered my elbow, herniated the disk in my neck," he said.

In the end, the Forward Avenue blaze left 13 families homeless.

It took 11 months for Chatterton to recover from his injuries before he was able to get back to work. Still, he added, he wouldn't have done anything differently.


With files from Ashley Burke