Even when a firefighter is off-duty, there is a willingness to respond to those in need. The actions of West Pierce Firefighter Justin Tinsley is no different. At the Board of Fire Commissioners meeting on February 21, Firefighter Tinsley was presented with a Valor Award for his heroic actions while duck hunting in Puget Sound in January.
Firefighter Tinsley and two of his friends were hunting near Nisqually and were in an area only accessible by boat. They had decided to head back to shore when weather conditions had quickly changed for the worse. While heading back, they noticed a smaller boat with three men on board suddenly capsize and the men in the water attempting to stay afloat, as none were wearing life jackets. Seeing the men in distress, Tinsley yelled to his friends to stay in the center of the boat to avoid capsizing themselves and headed towards them. Knowing he wouldn’t be able to transport them, as his boat was at maximum capacity, he and his friends directed the men to hold onto the side of Tinsley’s boat and drove it back to the boat launch. Bystanders were waiting and helped the men out of the water and into a nearby building to get dried off and warm.
Tinsley and his friends’ actions were heroic, but not surprising. His willingness to help others, whether on or off-duty, is something West Pierce Fire & Rescue admires about its employees and Tinsley is no exception.
“I am proud of their actions, despite the very real risks of succumbing to a similar fate of sinking their own boat and the danger to themselves,” wrote Captain Mike Boltz, who nominated Tinsley for a Valor Award. Battalion Chief Pat MacNealy included, “I know all of us on C Shift are very proud of him and his actions that day reflect on all of us.”
Tinsley was presented with a Valor Award by Deputy Chief Mitch Sagers, who said, “I would like to acknowledge your distinguished efforts and personally thank you for representing our organization in such a professional manner.”