A Grand Valley, Ont. man has been awarded the prestigious Carnegie Medal after he risked his safety to rescue his neighbour from a burning house.
The Carnegie Medal is considered one of the highest civilian honours for heroism. The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission gives the medal to civilians throughout Canada and the United States who enter extreme danger while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.
On night of March 2, Alan H. Mackie, a 63-year-old mechanic, was watching television when he noticed his 69-year-old neighbour’s home on fire.
He immediately called 911 and was instructed by the operator to stay outside the burning bungalow.
Fearing that the town’s volunteer fire department might not arrive in time to rescue his mobility-challenged neighbour, Mackie took matters into his own hands.
“The fire was over his bedroom. We could see the flames in the kitchen and the smoke was waist deep. Something had to be done,” Mackie recounted.
Mackie jumped into action and kicked open the front door, confronting a perilous scene of limited visibility and flames engulfing the interior.
A photo shows flames shooting out of the roof of Mackie’s neighbour’s home. (Submitted/Alan Mackie)
Undeterred, he crouched under the smoke, calling out for his neighbour and following his faint responses to the bedroom, approximately 25 feet into the burning structure.
“He was stumbling in the bedroom. I grabbed his walker and sat him on his walker and dragged him out,” said Mackie.
Minutes after the daring rescue, a section of the roof collapsed over the bedroom, underscoring the gravity of Mackie’s actions. While his neighbour received treatment for smoke inhalation, Mackie was uninjured.
Reflecting on the harrowing experience, Mackie says there was no time to be scared. Looking back now, he says he would have done it again.
“You have to. I still stop if somebody is stuck on the side of the road if they need help, even in this day and age where you shouldn’t,” said Mackie.
In recognition of his heroic act, Mackie will not only receive the Carnegie Medal but also a financial grant of US$7,500.
He plans to use the money to take his family on a cruise and pamper his grandkids who now affectionately call him as “Spider-Man.”
Hero Fund president Eric Zahren commended Mackie, stating, “Mr. Mackie represented the Carnegie hero in its truest sense. Mackie was a neighbour to the person he rescued. That was exactly Carnegie’s goal in establishing the Hero Fund – that we would all become better neighbours, people and friends, even to strangers.”
The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission was established in 1904 by prominent American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
Since its inception, nearly $45 million have been given to more than 10,000 awardees or their survivors.