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Hero councillor receives Medal of Bravery
Vince Sharpe earns national recognition for saving lives

Samantha Stokell
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, July 14, 2011

INUVIK - Inuvik town councillor and former firefighter Vince Sharpe has been honoured with a Medal of Bravery from the Governor General of Canada for his actions in saving two lives four years ago.

NNSL photo/graphic

Vince Sharpe, town councillor and former firefighter, has received a Medal of Bravery from the Governor General of Canada. He was nominated for saving two people from a burning trailer in 2007, but has also saved three other people, two from fires and one from drowning. - NNSL file photo

In November 2007, Sharpe pulled two people from a burning trailer. He received the nomination and approval in January, but the announcement was made at the end of June. Sharpe is humble about the recognition.

"It's nice to have something to leave my children and grandchildren when I pass away," he said. "I don't like to make a big deal about it. You just go in there if you can do it."

Sharpe had come upon a building with black smoke coming out of it. A woman ran out, gasping for air and coughing and said her dad was still inside.

A former captain of the Inuvik Volunteer Fire Department, Sharpe crawled through the trailer on his stomach looking for the man.

The father was already unconscious, so Sharpe grabbed him and pulled him out the door. That's when the woman told him someone else was in the trailer, too. So back in he went and pulled him out, too.

"What else are you going to do?" Sharpe said. "It's great to help if you can.

"Their life was in danger and they needed an immediate response or they were going to die."

This wasn't the first time nor the last time Sharpe has saved a life. He saved a baby in a house fire in 1972; in 1978, he saved a woman in a wheelchair from a fire; and just last year he helped save a woman from drowning.

While Sharpe doesn't know who nominated him, and the office of the Governor General doesn't reveal who did, Inuvik MLA Robert C. McLeod said in the legislative assembly a few months after Sharpe saved the men from the trailer fire that Sharpe should be honoured.

"To rush into a burning building once and pull somebody out is quite an accomplishment. To do it twice is an amazing feat. To actually do it three times is unheard of," McLeod said on February 15, 2008. "I think acts like this unselfish bravery — going into burning buildings to rescue people — shouldn’t go unrecognized."

Sharpe said the training he received at the fire department gave him the skills he needed in those life-saving situations.

"It trains you on what to do and how to respond. Don't walk into a house standing up. Crawl on the floor because that is where the fresh air is," he said. "Don't panic. You need the time to think about how you will respond."

The Decorations for Bravery were created in 1972 to recognize people who risk their lives to save people from immediate danger.

Sharpe will travel to Ottawa for a ceremony at Rideau Hall. The date has not yet been announced.

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