Honoring Ryder Z..jpg

Ryder Zwolinski (third from left) was awarded the Mound Fire Department’s Citizen Lifesaving Award Jan. 20 after he rescued his father, Robert Zwolinski (second from left), from a garage fire Jan. 5. (Elizabeth Hustad/Laker Pioneer)

A Mound resident’s son was honored Jan. 20 for his efforts in rescuing his own father from a garage fire on Noble Lane earlier this month.

Ryder Zwolinski, 15, forced open the garage’s man door after his father, Robert, found himself locked inside and with the fire spreading rapidly.

Robert had been working on his motorcycle in the unattached garage when the fire broke out at 1 p.m. Jan. 5, said Mound Fire Chief Greg Pederson. Gasoline leaking from a car nearby catalyzed the initial flames, causing the fire to grow quickly and conditions inside to become “threatening and uninhabitable.”

Pederson said that a large amount of ammunition also in the garage heightened the risk involved for both Robert and his son and, later, emergency responders.

“The community and entire public safety staff commend Ryder Zwolinski for his direct, adroit and unselfish act,” said Pederson, who spoke from a small podium in the department’s apparatus bay, the bright red Ladder 44 engine serving as backdrop.

A crowd of 45-50 people, the majority of them emergency responders, came out to the no frills ceremony the evening of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, including Mound Fire Department personnel – active, retired and auxiliary; members of the Orono Police Department, including Jane Szczepanik who worked dispatch for the Jan. 5 call; responders from Ridgeview Medical Center; Mound Mayor Ray Salazar and Mound city manager Eric Hoversten.

“It took a lot of courage when you broke that door down, reached inside and pulled your father out to safety,” said Mayor Salazar, speaking directly to Ryder. “All eyes in the city of Mound are all upon you, and we’re very proud of you.”

The Zwolinskis had declined an offer by the city for more fanfare, and the ceremony was kept short, about 10 minutes, by their request.

“Ryder’s quick thinking and swift actions likely saved his father’s life or saved him a lot of misery,” said Pederson.

Lt. Jason Rice of Mound Fire presented Ryder with the department’s Citizen Lifesaving Award and read out the honors printed on the plaque:

“The fire had spread rapidly throughout the garage and generated a great deal of smoke and intense heat. These conditions were life threatening and made the garage uninhabitable. However, your father was trapped inside. You took immediate action by forcing open the garage door and rescuing your father. Your quick thinking, swift and aggressive action, very likely saved your father’s life. Our Mound community and entire public safety staff commend you for you heroic and unselfish act of bravery.”

Chief Pederson also applauded the efforts of emergency responders to the Noble Lane fire.

“This emergency call is a perfect example of how public safety systems and emergency response are designed to work,” said Pederson, who praised the “fast and efficient” response time of the emergency responders.

Responders arrived on site within five minutes of being called, said Pederson, who said that 25 firefighters responded to the call.

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