This was the scene at Federal White Cement near Beachville in 2004 as firefighters rescue a man trapped at the facility. The firefighters will be honoured Friday in Ottawa. (Free Press file photo)

Better late than never, or save the best for last.

Whichever way you look at it, five heroic London firefighters who risked their lives to save a trapped man near Beachville will be in Ottawa on Friday to receive the Medal of Bravery, which recognizes acts of bravery in hazardous circumstances.

The award, being presented by Gov. Gen. David Johnston, commemorates a 2004 event in which the five London firefighters and others rescued a man who was trapped inside a silo.

Receiving the award are Capt. Michael Black, Daniel Glanville, Brent Kirchner, Darrell Black and Benoit Ladouceur.

They rescued Efrain Alberto Delvalle from between two huge deposits of cement dust after he had sunk chest-deep into it. Delvalle was cleaning the inside of a Federal White Cement silo when he became trapped between two dust deposits. Another 15-tonne deposit jutted out just above him.

One at a time, the firefighters were harnessed and lowered into the confined space. Suspended by a rope rescue system, they worked carefully, using a jackhammer to break up the debris around Delvalle and vacuum it out of the silo. During the process, they were positioned directly under an outcropping of unstable solidified cement dust weighing nearly 15 tonnes.

The rescue operation took nearly 13 hours before Delvalle was freed and taken to safety.

“We’re very proud of these five individuals,” London Fire Chief John Kobarda said, recalling the number of ways the operation could have gone wrong if a mistake had been made.

The men were given bravery medals from Ontario’s lieutenant-governor at Queen’s Park in 2005.

Kobarda said the rescue underscores the many ways firefighters put themselves in harm’s way to save lives.

“We have three specialty teams. There’s the ice-water rescue team, (which) will respond in the winter if there’s an ice event — they’re trained in swift water and regular water rescue. There’s our technical rescue team. Currently, they’re trained in contained space and high and low rescue and we’ll be looking at trench rescue. And we have the Hazmat team, which I was proud to serve with before I became the deputy.”

scott.taylor@sunmedia.ca

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via The London Free Press.