[Spencer Daily Reporter nameplate] Light Rain and Breezy ~ 44°F  
High: 47°F ~ Low: 39°F
Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Reluctant Milford hero honored at State Fair

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Furniture was discarded near the curb of a fatal structure fire in the Pioneer Trailer Court in Milford on May 11, 2011. On Friday, Milford resident Rod Stevenson was honored at the Iowa State Fair for the heroic actions he took that day.
Pioneer Trailer Court owner Rod Stevenson said he didn't have time to be scared when he followed a baby's cry into a smoky trailer on May 11, 2011.

"It was just a reaction and I think anybody would do it," he said in the days after a daring rescue in Milford.

Iowa's governor and his city's fire chief might say otherwise.

On Friday, Stevenson was among 18 individuals honored at the Governor's Lifesaving Awards Ceremony. Stevenson received the Lifesaving With Valor Award for persons who, while risking their own life, saved the lives of others.

Stevenson did not travel to Des Moines to accept his honor.

"I think he just feels that he did what anybody should have or would have done," Milford Fire Chief Jim Carpenter said. "He doesn't see himself as a hero, but he definitely did a very heroic act. We run into burning buildings all of the time as firemen, but for somebody to do it without the training or equipment -- that's pretty courageous."

Stevenson was working under a neighboring trailer when he heard someone yell "fire" on that Saturday more than a year ago.

The landlord tried to go in through the front door, but couldn't get past the heat and smoke. He went around to the back of the trailer and saw two people inside. He is credited with breaking out a window in the back of the trailer that allowed two adults to climb out.

He then asked the family if anyone else was inside. No one could give him a definitive answer.

"I put my head up there to hear -- because you couldn't see more than two inches in front of your face, it was that black," Stevenson said at the time. "I heard a baby cry and said 'oh my God,' so I grabbed a bucket and tried to jump up, but I couldn't. Then I told the guy behind me to go get my ladder from where I was working."

Stevenson climbed up to the window and went inside.

"We're lucky," Carpenter said. "We're wearing air packs, so we take our air with us. He didn't have that benefit that day."

The smoke was so thick, Stevenson couldn't see. He took a deep breath, crawled around and tried to hear the boy. The popping noises of a burning structure echoed around him.

"Either I'm going to die or I'm going to live -- one of the two -- but I've got to go in to get this little guy," Stevenson said he remembers thinking.

After about 20 seconds in the burning trailer, Stevenson reached into the darkness and felt the hand of Kenyin, a young boy trapped inside the trailer.

"I threw him out to the guys and they caught him. Then I dove out head-first from there," Stevenson said.

Milford firefighters arrived on scene approximately 10 minutes later to find Stevenson on his hands and knees outside. Another child in the trailer, 2-year-old Dustin Ledehoff, did not survive the incident. Three adults and two children escaped with Stevenson's help.

Carpenter is familiar with the location of the fire and the child who was trapped in another part of the trailer. The fire chief is confident Stevenson did all he could do.

"I haven't talked to Rod for quite a while, but I think it still bothers him a little bit," Carpenter said.

On behalf of the Milford Fire Department, Carpenter said, "we're very pleased that he was honored by the governor with this award."

"We felt, as a department that Rod was very deserving of it," he added. "He put his own life in jeopardy and if he hadn't done what he had done that day, we would have had another fatality that day with another child."

Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. If you feel that a comment is offensive, please Login or Create an account first, and then you will be able to flag a comment as objectionable. Please also note that those who post comments on spencerdailyreporter.com may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.

Hats off to you brave sole!!!! May you find peace with this and I wish you and your family well being.

-- Posted by acerdj on Thu, Aug 16, 2012, at 5:02 AM

This man did an amazing job! If it wasn't for him the little boy that did make it out probably wouldn't have if it wasn't for him, maybe not the adults either. He is a hero whether he realizes it or not!

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Mon, Aug 20, 2012, at 7:01 PM

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: