Effingham firefighters awarded medals of honor

During a city council meeting Tuesday, Effingham Fire Chief Brant Yochum presented Lieutenant John Stroud, Firefighter Benjamin Siemer and Firefighter John Paholke of the Effingham Fire Department with medals of honor for their heroic actions in the moments following the anhydrous ammonia spill that occurred just outside of Teutopolis on Sept. 29, 2023 and killed five people.

“This was not just any call,” Yochum said. “It was a highly dangerous situation due to the toxic chemicals released in the accident. This kind of bravery, moving toward danger to help others and not giving up even when it’s tough, is what makes a firefighter.”

Yochum said the firefighters were assigned to locate an adult and two children at a residence near the scene of the accident. While searching the area, the firefighters tragically came across two children who were already deceased, but they managed to save an injured woman from a nearby vehicle.

“While arriving at the residence, they inadvertently found themselves at ground zero of the incident, amidst a dangerous cloud of toxic gas actively leaking from the truck,” Yochum said. “Despite realizing the risk, they pressed on, fully aware of the tremendous danger they faced.

“They quickly and safely extracted her from the area and handed her over to the medical team, an action that undoubtedly saved her life.”