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Two Topeka firefighters receive the Medal of Honor for outperforming their duties on a call

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 10:54 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -Months ago 13 NEWS reported on a house fire that left one of the resident’s lives uncertain.

On January 6th, at about 3:00 a.m. a house burst into flames on Oakley Street.

Firefighters Ryan Mellen and John Payne responded to the call.

“Engine 7 was called to a structure fire at 3:00 a.m. this past January and upon arrival, we were notified that someone was still in the house and the left side of the structure was fully involved so we entered through the second stairs and found an unresponsive patient and able to remove her and take her to the lawn,” said Mellen.

When responding to one call just seems to be part of the job, turned out to be the reason one couple can still hold hands today.

“The only thing that I thought of was how was my wife going to get out of the house and that was the thing because she was calling my name for as long as she could and then she quit and that’s when I really got upset because I could not see,” said resident, Frank Puls.

Mellen received the Medal of Honor for dedicating his life to help others, and from a young age and he knew exactly what he wanted to do.

“I was a freshman in college and I knew I wanted to do health care when 9/11 happened and as soon as the planes hit I realized that being a firefighter, being the one to rescue people is what I wanted to do,” said Mellen.

But Payne and Mellen know first hand this job is built around teamwork.

“Teamwork is what keeps you alive and keeps you going, there is not one firefighter that can do the job by themselves so having a team is how you keep on surviving,” said Firefighter, John Payne.

Although the fire department wasn’t able to save the house, the two most important priorities were saved.

“We lost a lot, but I didn’t lose Frank. So I have nothing but appreciation for the situation we’re in now and it doesn’t really matter about wood and furniture, I didn’t know anything until maybe the first of February,” said Joan Puls.

Mellen has been a firefighter for 14 years and was just named lieutenant in October.

This October, Payne will have been with the Topeka Fire Department for two years.

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