Three staff members of the Bureau of Land Management’s Tres Rios office in Dolores received a Valor Award for their efforts to save a co-workers’ life last year.
In August 2016, BLM geologist Jamie Blair collapsed at his desk and went into cardiac arrest. David Sanders, Derrick Baldwin, and Robert Garrigues quickly administered lifesaving actions to revive Blair, who has since made a full recovery and is back at work.
The Department of Interior’s Valor Award is the agency’s most prestigious recognition for heroism. It was presented to the staff members by Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke at a July 4 ceremony in Washington, D.C.
“Today’s recipients have demonstrated courage, and we should all be thankful,” he said. “These heroes would humbly tell you that they were just doing their jobs or doing what had to be done.”
Blair and his now-favorite co-workers credited the office’s required CPR training and automated external defibrillator for saving his life. The user-friendly unit uses electric shock to restart the heart or restore normal rhythm.
“I’m very thankful for my co-workers. Their quick thinking saved my life, and having the AED in the office was crucial,” Blair said. “The units are a good investment for offices and public places. I’m proof they save lives.”
Thirty federal employees were honored with various awards for bravery during the ceremony.
“Hearing the stories of the amazing men and women from across the Department of Interior was awe-inspiring,” said Baldwin. “To be recognized in this way was a true honor.”
Sanders, a BLM ranger, was equally appreciative of the award and said it was special to “be part of something bigger in the whole scheme of life and work, and to experience the BLM organization at a larger level.”
Lara Blair, Jamie Blair’s wife, expressed eternal gratitude for her husband’s co-workers.
“You kept our family whole, and now Jamie can live on with his wit, his friendliness, his love of family and biking. I love you for it, and you will always have a special place in my heart,” she said.
Jamie Blair said he has a new appreciation for life and has kept his sense of humor.
“The week before, one of the guys helped me jump-start my car, so it was kind of a foreshadow,” he said.
At the ceremony, six members of the Navajo Hot Shot crew also received awards for their lifesaving measures during last summer’s 46,000-acre Cedar Fire on the Fort Apache Reservation near Show Low, Arizona.
The wildfire crew was forced to deploy their fire shelters in the midst of a violent fire whirl. Squad boss Brian Billie made sure all were safely tucked in before deploying his own shelter.
To read other rescue stories from Interior staff go to DOI Heroes Honored.