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Valencia firefighter honored with Medal of Valor

Posted: March 1, 2016 7:11 p.m.
Updated: March 1, 2016 7:11 p.m.

A Valencia man was one of four firefighters awarded a medal for his bravery Tuesday, honoring his life-risking rescue of a woman who was trapped under the rubble of a deadly earthquake in Nepal last year.

Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighter Matthew Prasch, 31, worked through the rubble despite persistent and strong aftershocks, digging a 30-foot tunnel with his bare hands to rescue a woman buried underneath three stories of fallen structure.

He worked shoulder-to-shoulder with county fire Capt. Daniel McKeen to dig the same tunnel and freeing the same buried woman.

On Tuesday, Prasch and McKeen were decorated with the Medal of Valor for their exceptional heroism during a ceremony at the Pasadena Convention Center.

Also receiving a Medal of Valor were county Fire Department Capt. Mark Roberts and firefighter Leo Harris, who ran into a burning building and pulled four fellow firefighters to safety after the building had collapsed on them.

In all, more than 100 people were recognized by county Fire Department brass for their heroic actions Tuesday.

Every year, the Valor Awards presentation recognizes extraordinary members of the department, other first-responder agencies and civilians for their exceptional heroism and exemplary service.

Besides the four Medal of Valor recipients, others at the ceremony received awards, including Certificates of Valor, Unit Citations, Certificates of Merit, Letters of Commendation and Exemplary Service awards.

Prasch and other firefighters deployed to Nepal in mid-May 2015 as part of the department’s Urban Search and Rescue team.

“The team spent 19 days in Nepal searching for victims in the Kathmandu City area,” Fire Chief Daryl Osby said at the time.

The search and rescue team was part of a Disaster Assistance Response Team deployed at the request of the Nepali government by the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit on April 25.

After a magnitude 7.3 aftershock, local residents told team members about the trapped woman. Prasch and McKeen spent more than four hours digging their way through rubble to free her, according to the Fire Department.

The search and rescue members provided medical care to the woman and 11 other quake victims overnight in Singati until helicopters were able to fly the patients and the team to safety.

The Nepali government said the initial earthquake, which the U.N. estimates affected 8 million people, and its aftershocks killed 8,250 people and injured more than 16,800 others.

More than 543,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.

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on Twitter @jamesarthurholt


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