Ottumwa Fire Department

OTTUMWA — Four Ottumwa firefighters are being honored for their roles in a dangerous river rescue in 2018.

Capt. Rich Damm and firefighters Will Munley, Gary Doud and Andrew Ewing will receive the 2019 Sullivan Brothers’ Award of Valor. The award is given to law enforcement or firefighters who “while serving in an official capacity, distinguished themselves by the performance of a heroic act in excess of normal demands … where the person was fully aware of the threat to his/her personal safety.”

The rescue on Oct. 8, 2018, was successful. It almost turned out much differently.

Firefighters went onto the river, which was running high, to rescue a man who was stranded on the water. During the rescue, their own boat capsized, dumping firefighters into the water. They made it to shore and were able to complete the rescue, but it was a very close call. Chief Tony Miller later called it as “the only time I thought I was gonna lose someone.”

“It was that incident, where we lost our boat and almost lost two guys,” he said Tuesday.

The awards will be formally presented during a ceremony Dec. 10 at the State Capitol. It will also include the Governor’s Lifesaving Awards, which are given to civilians.

Matt Milner can be reached at and followed on Twitter @mwmilner


Managing Editor

Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.

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