Gov. Jerry Brown presented the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor to 13 law enforcement officers and firefighters on Tuesday. One of the recipients was Long Beach firefighter Charles Hakopian, who rescued a toddler from a burning building.
Last December, Hakopian and his crew responded to a fire at a two-story buidling in North Long Beach. Witnesses told the firefighters there was a 2-year-old boy trapped in an upstairs apartment, so Hakopian and another firefighter ran to the second floor to search for the toddler.
They immediately saw two rooms engulfed in flames. Hakopian went into the first room and nearly fell through the floor.
“When I made entry, I was in a crouching position and fell through up to my elbow," said Hakopian. "Luckily I was able to pull myself out, pushing off a wall that was on the first floor with my feet.”
Hakopian and his partner didn't find the boy, so they moved on to the second room and saw the toddler lying on the ground.
"He was directly below a window on the ground, face down," said Hakopian. "When I picked him up, he was pretty limp, didn’t have any muscle tone and he was not breathing."
By that time, another fire crew was battling the flames. Holding the boy, Hakopian crouched low and was able to escape the building.
The boy suffered second-degree burns to his legs and was in critical condition, but he has since recovered.
Other Medal of Valor recipients include two California Highway Patrol officers who were involved in a deadly shootout in Fresno County last year.
The Medal of Valor is California's highest public safety award.