Spirit of Courage Award: Khrystina Gimeno
Corporal Khrystina Gimeno was dispatched from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department to assist with local evacuations from a growing wildfire engulfing homes on a very hot summer afternoon on August 31. She began knocking on doors to assist in evacuations, and quickly realized she herself was becoming trapped in the growing blaze of brush and house fires.
An overhead helicopter dropped fire retardant near her, creating a narrow exit path. As she began to head that way, she encountered a very bewildered, scared, crying, and almost frozen older woman standing outside of a home that was just catching on fire. In addition to the fast-spreading brush fire, sparks were flying from downed lines and heavy smoke was clouding the air. Realizing the imminent danger and knowing that the woman would not be able to navigate the exit path on her own, Corporal Gimeno immediately escorted the bewildered woman to the exit path, and then drove her to the evacuation site while the raging wildfire blazed around their narrow exit – as more homes surrounding them became engulfed in flames and smoke. She saved a life that day.