Firefighting hero footballer to be awarded bravery medal after saving family from blazing inferno
A firefighting footballer who put his own life on the line to save two children from a fourth-floor blaze is to be awarded the Cross of Merit for Bravery in a ceremony scheduled for later today.
Hailed a hero by the football world, the story of Łukasz Gryciak has gone viral over the last few days after the true extent of his courage became apparent.
Playing as a defender for fifth tier MKS Dąb Dębno, the 29-year-old has, for the last ten-years, juggled his football career with that of a firefighter for the local fire brigade in Dębno.
More accustomed to dealing with domestic accidents, stranded cats and car crashes, fire crews in Dębno, a sleepy north-western backwater of just over 13,000 people, found themselves called out last Friday to tackle a fierce blaze that had broken out in a block of flats.
Although most tenants managed to swiftly evacuate the premises, it soon became clear that a grandmother and her two grandchildren had been left trapped inside a burning flat.
Speaking to the Goal.pl portal, Gryciak said: “Usually I’m the one driving the fire engine, but this incident demanded a different course of action… I had to help my colleagues, I couldn’t just stay beside the vehicle.”
With his other teammates engaged in searching the rest of the building and controlling the fire, panicked residents alerted Gryciak and a colleague that three people were still missing.
Entering the apartment, Gryciak says that visibility had been reduced to practically zero.
“I could not even see my own hand,” he told Goal.pl.
However, above the noise of the conflagration, he was able to make out the distressed cries of a child so made his way towards the screams on his hands and knees.
Realizing that the girl was having serious trouble breathing, Gryciak made the spontaneous decision to surrender his own breathing apparatus in order to save her.
Having located also the grandmother and the girl’s young brother, and with other escape routes cut off, Gryciak and his colleague were then able to guide them to the fire engine’s basket.
“I have a small boy myself,” Gryciak said after, “so I felt I had to really give it everything to save these children. I’ve never been involved in such an action before, and never before have I felt in such danger.”
Being a small town, stories of the fire quickly spread and with Gryciak not answering his phone his fiance feared the worst after hearing rumours that a firefighter had been injured.
Reportedly the biggest fire Dębno has seen for decades, Gryciak’s selfless actions meant that he himself had to be treated in hospital for smoke inhalation.
Fortunately, Gryciak was released from observation the following day and was able to return home in time to enjoy dinner and some wine with his fiancé.
Back in work the next Monday, despite still suffering the side effects of smoke poisoning, Gryciak’s story found itself going viral after his football side posted to social media hailing the hero’s actions.
Inundated with over 3,000 messages of support since, Gryciak himself has modestly downplayed his conduct.
“Like football,” he says, “firefighting is a team game.”
Reaping praise from all quarters, including the football community, Gryciak’s football manager has also joined the plaudits: “Because of his firefighting responsibilities Łukasz only played two games for us in the autumn,” said Kamil Michniewicz. “But he’s a real captain – as you can see, both on and off the pitch. He’s always relentless, ambitious and brave… we are proud of his attitude.”
Announced yesterday, Gryciak will now be presented today with the Cross of Merit for Bravery, possibly by President Andrzej Duda himself.
For his part, Gryciak told Goal.pl that he hopes to receive three to four days off once the fuss has died down.