Firefighter/EMT James Hoffman Derry Fire Department
Jack Webb, Battalion Chief with the Derry Fire Department recognize Firefighter/EMT James Hoffman for his “true grit” in helping to rescue two boys from freezing water at Hood Pond on November 20, 2014.
On November 20, 2014 Firefighter/EMT Hoffman was assigned to Derry Engine 4 when they responded to the area of Hood Park for two children who had fallen through thin ice. During the two minute response to the scene, Firefighter Hoffman donned the ice rescue suit so he would be immediately ready to enter the ice/water. On arriving at the scent, two boys were found in the water 130 feet from shore, one boy clinging to the ice and the other boy bobbing in the water struggling to stay afloat.
Engine 4 crew of Lt. Richard Payne and Firefighter/Paramedic Steve Auger with the help of Derry Police Sgt. O’Donaghue, Officer Houlis and Officer Starkey tended the rescue line that was attached to Firefighter Hoffman as he crawled across and broke through the thin ice to get to the two boys. The were soon joined by Firefighter/Paramedic Daviault and Firefighter Tom Porter of Derry Medic 1.
Upon reaching the hole in the ice Firefighter/EMT Hoffman found one boy still clinging to the ice and the other boy was submerged with only his hand above water. The water was about seven feet deep at this point. He grabbed hold of both boys, holding his arms straight out, while the line crew pulled him back to shore. At one point Firefighter/EMT Hoffman got wedged against the ice, and while holding a boy in each hand, used his elbows to break himself free which allowed the line crew to drag him to shore. It took all seven men on the line crew to pull Firefighter/EMT Hoffman and the two boys off, over and through the thin ice. While being towed Firefighter/EMT Hoffman could feel his forearms cramping from the strain and that it was all he could do to maintain his grip on the boys. Firefighter/EMT Hoffman received contusions and abrasions across his back when he got wedged and when the ice cut through and ripped open the back of the ice rescue suit. The suit is constructed of one-quarter inch neoprene rubber and is very tough.
Once on shore, the two boys were carried to waiting ambulances by the Derry Engine 1 crew. They were treated, warmed and released several hours later. Firefighter/EMT Hoffman required first aid treatment back at the station.
It was only six minutes from the time the call was dispatched to the time the boys were rescued, with the boys being the water an estimated eight to nine minutes. If there had been any delay in response or rescue, it is likely that at lease one of the boys would have submerged under the ice. The rapidness of the rescue was a direct result of the training of the Engine 4 crew combined with the teamwork between them and the Derry Police Department.
The efforts of Firefighter/EMT Hoffman was a remarkable feat, as it was determined that each child’s normal body weight combined with their water soaked clothing, that each weighted around 125 or more pounds.
Derry Fire Battalion Chief, David Hoffman, and father of Firefighter/EMT James Hoffman praised heroic efforts of his son. He also quickly gave credit to the four other firemen and three police officers working the line crew, he couldn’t have done it alone. Battalion Chief Hoffman further stated “That’s what we are here for, and the fact that he had two that he held and never wavered; that’s true grit, and he’s a hero”.
It is with great pride that the NH Police, Fire & EMS Foundation present Firefighter/EMT James Hoffman the Firefighter of the Year Award!