One of the biggest rules in fire safety is one we all know: Things can be replaced, but human lives are infinitely more valuable and irreplaceable. Still, there are some things that are more than just mere possessions that are worth putting your life on the line for.
To one Toledo firefighter, the American flag, the universal symbol of freedom and liberty, is one of those things.
Allen Skomer is already enough of a hero being a firefighter in the urban Ohio community, but he’s also a veteran of the US Navy, which gives him a unique appreciation for the values Old Glory represents—values he fought to protect.
In the wee hours of Friday morning earlier in January, Skomer and his crew were dispatched to the home of a Vietnam veteran and found the structure engulfed in flames.
While working to prevent the fire from spreading to another structure adjoined to the house, Skomer says he noticed colors flickering before the flames.
“I was helping one of the rookies throw a stream in between those two structures, to keep that second structure from burning,” Skomer told local news outlet WTOL. “That’s when I noticed the colors waving with the flames behind them.”
Suddenly, as if to rescue a friend, Skomer sprinted to the front of the house and quickly saved the flag.
“I didn’t want to let it burn, so I went and grabbed it,” Skomer said, explaining his willingness to run into harm’s way to save the stars and stripes.
“I’m an eight-year veteran of the Navy. It’s just a knee-jerk reaction. I didn’t want to see the colors go up. I would never knowingly let the flag go up in smoke or be desecrated in front of me if I can help it.”
It was a miracle that Skomer was able to rescue the flag at just the right time. Moments later, the roof of the home collapsed in the blaze, destroying everything inside its perimeter.
Skomer and the brave crew were also able to save the adjoining structure from the fire, but the homeowner, identified only as Bob, can rest easy knowing that the flag he cared for is safe.
Bob’s neighbors describe him as a foundational part of the community, and one who cares deeply for his flag. Christy Depp, a friend of Bob’s, told WTOL that Bob had amazingly just bought his brand-new flag not long before the fire took his home.
“Bob’s a good man to the community, to us. He’s a veteran,” Depp added, describing the wonderful things Bob does in their neighborhood. “A lot of the homeless that walk up and down the streets, he feeds them. Cooks for them and everything and never turned nobody down, nobody down. He did a lot for us.”
Skomer was rightfully lauded, not only for his bravery and skill in working to put out the blaze but for his immense reverence for the flag.
“Patriotism is something that I think is overlooked these days,” Toledo Fire spokesman Sterling Rahe said in a statement on Skomer’s incredible actions. “That flag is the core symbol of our citizenship and we should be thankful for the freedom and what that flag represents. It’s a proud moment.”
“Respect for the flag runs deep within our department,” Rahe continued, praising Skomer. “It’s a great moment for Al to take be able to respect the flag and do what he did. What you saw in that video is who he is.”
Although Bob must surely be devastated by the loss of his home, there is one thing he, Skomer, and people like them can never lose: their respect for our flag.