Philadelphia FF awarded for saving baby from burning vehicle off-duty

Philadelphia Firefighter Sean Dugan received the Award of Valor from The National Liberty Museum and was also named Philadelphia's Firefighter of the Year in October


Christopher Dornblaser
Bucks County Courier Times, Levittown, Pa.

PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia firefighter didn't think twice to help a family in need when he happened upon a car crash in Warrington earlier this year.

Sean Dugan, 37, of Horsham, even nearly forgot to put his own car in park when he jumped out to help a baby girl trapped in a burning vehicle near the Warrington Crossing shopping center in May.

Philadelphia Firefighter Sean Dugan (center) was named the city's Firefighter of the Year in October after saving a baby from a burning vehicle while off-duty. Dugan received the Award of Valor from The National Liberty Museum this past week.
Philadelphia Firefighter Sean Dugan (center) was named the city's Firefighter of the Year in October after saving a baby from a burning vehicle while off-duty. Dugan received the Award of Valor from The National Liberty Museum this past week. (Photo/Philadelphia Fire Department)

On Tuesday, The National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia presented an Award of Valor to Dugan for his actions. The museum gives the award to firefighters and police officers in the area for "remarkable acts of heroism," according to the museum.

Dugan was also honored as Philadelphia Firefighter of the Year in October.

For 15 years, the museum has given out the Award of Valor to firefighters and police officers in the area for "remarkable acts of heroism," according to the museum.

And more than awards and honors, he has the gratitude of the mother, who watched as he rescued her child.

"It means a lot to me, I feel as though he saved my daughter's life," said Lorna Best.

Dugan, a 13-year member of the Philadelphia Fire Department, was returning from a doctor's appointment with his wife and daughter when he saw Best's car burning after a crash on Route 611 on May 27.

Dressed in gym shorts, a T-shirt and flip flops, ran to the car to assist. "It was kind of just like my training ... kind of kicked in," he said.

Best was driving in the area with her mother and three children when the crash happened. Everyone was able to get out after the crash except for Best's baby daughter, who was still in the backseat in a car seat trapped.

Dugan said he tried to get in through the back doors, but they were locked.

"So I just dove right in to the open door of the passenger side," he said.

He crawled through deployed airbags, broken glass and smoke to get the girl to safety.

Best said she started panicking when she was out of the car and realized she couldn't get to her daughter. But she didn't have to wait long for her daughter to be saved.

"He was already in the car grabbing her," she said.

Two high school students from a nearby car wash came over with fire extinguishers, which Dugan used to put the fire out. Best's car's engine was on fire.

"When I tell the story, I feel like I have an out of body experience," Best said.

She said the whole ordeal was just a few seconds, but it felt like minutes had gone by.

Dugan said he exchanged information with Best and asked her to let him know that she was OK afterward. The two have remained in contact since.

"I called him our little angel," Best said of Dugan.

No one was seriously injured in the crash.

Dugan, who was recently promoted to lieutenant, said he joined the fire department to help give back to the community. He said it was humbling to receive the award.

"My life's a lot better when I'm in service to others," he said.

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(c)2020 Bucks County Courier Times, Levittown, Pa.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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