Fire captain honored for life-saving rescue.

September 13, 2017

Cpt. Tim Tubbs of the Hart Area Fire Department, at right, shakes hands with John Varenhorst, who Tubbs rescued. Contributed photo.

Fire captain honored for life-saving rescue.

‘I remember about 10 seconds after I got down onto the ground, I went to my knees. I don’t know if it was adrenaline or exhaustion or both. I was just glad that we both made it out of that room.’

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HART — Captain Tim Tubbs of the Hart Area Fire Department was recently honored for his heroic efforts during the Parkview Manor Apartment fire in December of 2016 that saved the life of resident John Varenhorst, a Vietnam War veteran.

Varenhorst, Tubbs and Hart Fire Chief Jack White. Contributed photo.

The department recently bestowed the award upon Tubbs by providing a framed copy of his letter detailing the events of that terrifying, frigid night.

The following is his letter:

Heavily Involved Apartment Fire in Hart

At approximately 12:30 a.m. on December 16, 2016, my fire pager went off for an apartment fire downtown Hart. The call stated that there were possibly several people still inside. I jumped out of bed and ran to get dressed. In the garage is where I put on my turnout gear and also when I heard Chief (Ken) Klotz call was on scene. Chief then started calling for additional departments to respond to a working fire.

I’m approximately one mile away from the structure fire. I arrived on scene just behind 142, so I parked outside of the apartment complex. I grabbed my additional gear out of my fire bag before I took off running towards 142. As I was running, I could see Chief Klotz and two state police officers pulling out a 35-foot extension ladder, as soon as the fire truck stopped.

Chief Klotz yells to me, “Tim, you and the two officers go to the back of the apartment complex. There is somebody on the second story that needs to be rescued. I have multiple people injured in the front that I’ll take care of.”

As we are carrying the ladder to the back, the officers said they broke the fall of one lady that jumped. Then, they spotted the gentleman trapped up in the apartment on the second floor, which is where we were bringing the ladder. As we came around the corner of the apartment complex, I got a visual on the gentleman through the sliding glass door. I also noticed that he was trying to get dressed. I yelled up at him, “I am coming to get you.” I set the ladder on his balcony and then I proceeded to go up the ladder yelling to the victim to come over to the ladder.

I got to the top of the ladder and kept encouraging him to make his way over to the ladder. I said, “Don’t worry about the rest of your clothes, get over here.” I then told him to turn around and crawl to me. When he went down, he stopped moving towards me and that’s when I knew I had to go in and get him. I jumped onto his balcony, removed his screen door and jumped over him and then I started lifting him up a little bit at a time while saying to him, “You need to help slide back towards the ladder.”

Together, we worked towards the ladder, but he did not seem to understand. Somehow, I got him through the opening and out onto the balcony. Once I got his feet onto the ladder he seemed to start to respond. I then yelled down to the state troopers to come over and help guide him down. They came running over and stood at the bottom of the ladder. I then said, “Climb up here, I need help to guide him down the steps of the ladder.”

I remember about 10 seconds after I got down onto the ground, I went to my knees. I don’t know if it was adrenaline or exhaustion or both. I was just glad that we both made it out of that room. The whole evening and into the morning, which lead into the next afternoon was ice-covered and exhausting, but I will never regret being there that night. Without the great effort of the 911 caller, the 911 dispatcher, the firemen of apparatus 142, Chief Klotz and several other officers, the outcome may have been different. Everyone’s quick response was key for all the lives saved that night.

The massive fire destroyed two apartment buildings and injured six people. No one died. It was likely caused by a man smoking a tobacco cigarette in bed or electrical issues. However, the official cause is “undetermined.”

*Editor’s Note: Ken Klotz has since stepped down as chief but remains on the fire department as a firefighter. Jack White, who is the chief for the Shelby-Benona Fire Department, is also the Hart Area Fire Department chief.

Story copyrighted © 2017 by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. All rights reserved. No portion of this story may be reproduced without expressed written consent. This includes publication and broadcasting.

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