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BFD firefighters honored for bravery rescuing drowning man while off-duty

Posted at 11:37 AM, Jul 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-11 11:21:48-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Four local firefighters were honored this weekend for jumping into action while off-duty to help a man drowning at the beach. This beach vacation turned rescue is even more impressive when you learn that it almost didn’t happen.

When the firefighters of Bakersfield Fire Station 1 planned a trip to the beach together, the last thing on their mind was a rescue. But in fact, that’s what took place on the day of June 12.

“The kids wanted to go out to the ocean, so we take them out and some lady was trying to get a surfers attention," said BFD Engineer Brett Moffat.

That's when the men noticed a man in the ocean struggling to stay afloat.

“The four quickly entered the water, with one of them grabbing a boogie board to assist in their efforts," said Chief John Frando. On Saturday, Frando awarded Bret Moffatt, Keith Chitwood, Kevin Hinkle and Larry Eichner bravery awards for their efforts.

This rescue is even more of a miracle considering the group wasn’t even supposed to be at that beach. Originally they planned to go to another Avila about 10 minutes away when last minute changes brought them to Pismo.

“This case at Pismo Beach, I would not say that the members had a duty to act, but in fact they had the courage to act," Frando said.

Instinctively their training kicked in and while their families watched from the safety of the sand, these men helped pull the swimmer ashore.

“It’s one of those cases where opportunity comes its was, you just do what you can to help, I think anyone would’ve done the same," said BFD Engineer Keith Chitwood.

while the men look back at the moment as nothing more than just another day, their families say it was much more.

“A drowning person is a dangerous thing..and to see them be concerned with nothing more than getting him to safety was honestly a miracle," said Chitwood's wife Maribel.