Heroes of apartment fire earn high praise | TheUnion.com

Heroes of apartment fire earn high praise

A standing ovation Tuesday night from a blue-clad army of their peers and superiors rewarded three Grass Valley public safety officers credited with saving the lives of two women last year.

By confronting flames and heavy black smoke at an Aug. 30 apartment fire, the trio risked their lives to save others.

It was an action that earned the praise of about 40 of their fellow officers who rose with the audience at the Grass Valley City Council meeting to recognize them.

Sgt. Joe Matteoni of the Grass Valley Police Department, firefighters Jeff Johnston of the Nevada County Consolidated Fire Department and Gary Dunne of the Grass Valley Fire Department received medals of valor for their heroic deeds.

The trio were honored for their bravery in pulling Ida Beckett, 83, and Karen Hughes, 45, from a fire at their apartment complex on the 300 block of Mill Street.

“We’re fortunate to live in a place where people like this are protecting us every single day,” said Mayor Lisa Swarthout.

Matteoni is a 15-year veteran of the GVPD. He hired on in 1994 and was promoted to sergeant in 2005.

Police Chief John Foster said Matteoni has received numerous letters of appreciation from the community over the years. According to a report on the fire, Matteoni rushed in and pulled Hughes from the flames in her second-story apartment.

Johnston is a five-year veteran of the NCCFD. He earned high praise from his commanding officer, Chief Tim Fike, for his actions in pulling Beckett from the blaze. On Feb. 8, she died of complications from the trauma associated with the fire.

“He did all the things by the textbook that were required of him,” Fike said of Johnston. “He is one of the incredibly passionate firefighters that works here and that shows.”

An eight-year firefighter in the Grass Valley Fire Department, Dunne worked with Johnston to pull Beckett from the building.

The consequences of their actions were clear for Beckett and Hughes, said Grass Valley Chief Tony Clarabut.

“There is no question they survived because of the action of these three,” Clarabut said.

The officers were uniformly humble in accepting their medals Tuesday.

“I definitely am thankful for the award, but this is what we get paid to do,” Matteoni said.

In other action, a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries was extended one year by the City Council Tuesday in a 4-0 vote.

Councilman Chauncey Poston was absent Tuesday. The city’s moratorium on medical marijuana distribution was extended because of pending statewide decisions on the future of the drug. Those include a ballot initiative which could legalize marijuana use for all Californians over the age of 21 that could be a voter option in the November election.

The city will host a special redevelopment workshop today at 6 p.m. to discuss the Idaho-Maryland Rd./East Main St. redevelopment plan. The workshop is scheduled to take place in the Hullender Room on the bottom floor of City Hall on 125 E. Main St. and is open to the public.

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail kmagin@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.

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