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Teen recognized for saving man’s life during recent fire

The quick actions of a recent high school graduate proved to be life-saving for another man and the teen was recognized for his valor during a Sunday ceremony in Lakeview.


ABOVE: Chippewa Park resident Dennis Thornsberry, 19, was given an award of valor Sunday for entering this structure while fully ablaze to save a man’s life on Thanksgiving evening. (PHOTO | LAKEVIEW FIRE DEPARTMENT) FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Dennis Thornsberry, 19, of Chippewa Park, displays an award for valor he received for hauling an unconscious neighbor from inside a fully engulfed structure fire on Thanksgiving Day. Presenting the award on Sunday afternoon are, from left, Lakeview Fire Department Assistant Chief Danny Defibaugh, Chief Norm Spring, Capt. Tim Tanner, Assistant Chief Al Haerr and Lakeview Mayor Ryan Shoffstall. (EXAMINER PHOTO | REUBEN MEES)

On Nov. 22, Thanksgiving Day, Dennis Thornsberry, 19, returned home shortly after 10 p.m. and heard shouting throughout the Chippewa Park neighborhood where he lives.

He at first thought it might be an argument at his neighbor’s home, but then he noticed flames leaping high above a privacy fence at a nearby 11322 Chickasaw Path residence.

When he went to investigate, a woman told him a man had gone inside and had not come out.

Mr. Thornsberry looked inside and saw a person on the floor. He instinctively tried the door to no avail before breaking out a window, crawling through and dragging the man, who later would be identified as resident Terry Brunk.

Both men were treated for smoke inhalation, but are alive and well today.

“If it wasn’t for his heroic actions and doing what is right for his community, we would have had a fatality on our hands,” Lake Fire Chief Norm Spring said as he, his fellow officers and Lakeview Mayor Ryan Shoffstall presented a plaque to the teenage hero.

Mr. Thornsberry, who humbly accepted the award, said he did not think about his own safety but acted out of concern.

“I just wanted to get the guy out,” he said. “I didn’t really have any thoughts. I just acted on my instincts.”

His valor also inspired Chief Spring to extend an invitation to Mr. Thornsberry to join the volunteer Lakeview Fire Department.

“It takes the good commitment of a person like yourself,” Chief Spring told the young man. “Most of us have been on (the department) since we came out of high school in the ’70s and we need younger ones.”

Mr. Thornsberry, who currently works at Honda Transmission Manufacturing, said he had thought it over since being asked recently and that he “will give it a try and see how it works out.”

Chief Spring said after a basic background check, he will formally recommend the recruit for council approval. If approved, the new volunteer firefighter will have to complete 36 hours of training in the first year and maintain continuous training throughout his time on the department.

And if the Honda job doesn’t work out, Chief Spring said, “Many of the people who leave here, go on to become full-time firefighters.”

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