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Newton County firefighter honored for saving child’s life
Fire Apparatus Operator Chris Calhoun with his Tim Peebles Champion of Children Excellence and Advocacy Award. He received the award on Feb. 18 in Atlanta. - photo by Darryl Welch

If you can keep your head when all of those around you seem to be losing theirs, you’re probably a firefighter. And that ability to stay calm and act under pressure was essential for one Newton County firefighter last September when he took decisive action and saved a child’s life.

That firefighter’s heroic action was recognized in on Atlanta Feb. 18.

Fire Apparatus Operator Chris Calhoun said he and his crew at Fire Station No. 1 were going about their normal duties last Sept. 28 when they were dispatched to a report of a child choking on a waffle.

”We got there, it was kind of chaotic. The parents were a little upset,” he said,” As we were walking up, I could see the father was holding the child. When we first walked up, it looked like he kind of had a hiccup. I sat the bags down and turned around and he’s not breathing- he’s struggling, the child was - he was turning blue.”

That’s when Calhoun’s training and ability to act under pressure kicked in.

“I told the father,’ Let me see him a minute - I want to try something real quick.’ I took him, put him on my forearm, inverted him and did two back blows and I heard something hit the porch – it sounded like it was bouncing,” he said.

“And I looked down and it was a gray ball bearing that the child had in his mouth. And he started crying once I got that out and I picked him back up.”

Calhoun said he turned the child over to EMS, who checked him found no other problems.

Fire Chief Michael Conner said he was notified at home of the incident by Newton County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Andy Holcomb.

“S/O was there before the fire truck, and evidently, and Chris even alluded to it, it was kind of a chaotic scene,” he said, “And nobody really knew what to do.”

Conner said Holcomb told him that Calhoun’s professionalism and calm demeanor settled the scene.

“Deputy Holcomb said he felt like that if it had been anybody else and had not recognized what was happening as quickly as Chris did, the outcome could have been catastrophic,” he said.

Prior to being honored in Atlanta for his life saving effort, Calhoun was awarded the NCFS Lifesaving Award at the department’s award banquet on Jan. 31.

Conner said in a statement that Calhoun was nominated for the state award by NCFS. He said GEMSA (Georgia Emergency Medical Service Association) board received nominations in several different areas of EMS from across the state. They then paneled a board to review all nominations received and select a winner for each category.

Calhoun received the Tim Peebles Champion of Children Excellence and Advocacy Award during the 2020 EMS Awards Reception at the Ga. Freight Depot in downtown Atlanta. The award is dedicated to the memory of Captain Tim Peebles who advocated quality pre-hospital care and for preventing injury and illness in children.