California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers Ryan Stephenson and Timothy Little received awards today at the 2016 Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor Award Ceremony in Sacramento. The awards acknowledge state employees for acts of heroism and bravery. Officer Stephenson and Little will both receive the Gold Medal for their “Special Acts” defined by the program as, “an extraordinary act of heroism by a state employee extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty or service performed at great risk to his/her own life in an effort to save human life.”
Wildlife Officer Ryan Stephenson:
On September 12, 2015 approximately 3 p.m., Stephenson was patrolling Lake County when the Valley Fire ignited. The fire had just consumed the small town of Cobb and was now headed toward Middletown and Hidden Valley Lake.
Stephenson raced ahead of the inferno to warn people about the fire and help them evacuate so they wouldn’t be trapped by the flames. Working door to door, he had evacuated several homes and escorted eight people to safety when one of the residents realized their neighbor had been overlooked. The neighbor, an 88-year-old wheelchair bound woman, was still in her home, lying on the couch, unaware of the approaching fire. Officer Stephenson quickly returned to her street, which was now engulfed in flames, identified the woman’s house, entered, and found her asleep on her couch. She was unable to get out on her own, so Officer Stephenson carried her in his arms to his patrol truck. As he was getting ready to leave, the woman told him she was worried about her dog. Officer Stephenson then went back into her home and returned to the truck with her dog, driving them all to safety just minutes before her home became engulfed in flames. The fire subsequently destroyed the woman’s home.
Stephenson’s heroic act saved the life of an elderly woman and her dog.
Wildlife Officer Timothy Little:
On September 12, 2015 approximately 3 p.m., Little was working as a safety patrol in the town of Cobb as he and other first responders scrambled to evacuate or assist residents during the Valley Fire.
As the fire began to consume the small town of Cobb, an emergency call went out about an elderly woman trapped in her home and in need of immediate rescue. Hearing radio calls from other rescue personnel saying they were unable to respond because of fire and debris in the roadway, Little immediately headed toward the woman’s home. Driving his patrol vehicle through raging flames and burning road hazards, Little found the house and entered the home where he found an elderly woman trapped with her 11-month old granddaughter. Little rescued both the woman and child, getting them out of their home safely just minutes before fire incinerated her home.
Shortly afterward, Little learned that another elderly woman was trapped in her house and needed serious medical attention. He also learned that no medical transport crews would be able to make it there in time. He raced to provide aid. After locating the house, he found the woman trapped on the second floor, unable to walk. Little carried her down a flight of stairs to a waiting vehicle and escorted them to the hospital. Little then continued to assist in other searches.
Little’s heroic acts saved the lives of two women and one infant.
“Our more than 400 wildlife officers understand and accept their roles as peace officers, caretakers, guardians and public servants,” said CDFW Chief of Law Enforcement David Bess. “They are well trained and prepared to not only deal with wildlife law enforcement, but general peace officer work and first responder duties. The brave and selfless acts by these officers exemplify the outstanding force of CDFW wildlife officers.”