HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – A New Haven firefighter who was severely injured in a deadly fire last year was recognized and awarded the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award Sunday evening. 

The Heart Bible International University hosted the award ceremony and presented the recipients at the Hartford Marriott Hotel. The university chancellor said the event honored people who were making a change and impact on the lives of others.

New Haven Firefighter Lieutenant Samod Rankins was one of the recipients.

“To see the impact that he has made in his community when he lost a friend. He wanted to do something to make a difference and I honor that,” said HBIU Chancellor Dornett McIntosh. 

Last May, a fire ripped through a home on Valley Street in New Haven. Rankins, alongside Firefighter Ricardo Torres Jr., ran into the home and saved two people. Torres Jr. died in the line of duty.

Rankins was badly injured, he spent 11 days in the burn unit, not sure he wasn’t going to make it. After a long recovery, Rankins was back on his feet and began a scholarship fund for New Haven residents interested in obtaining an EMT certification to pursue a firefighter career path. The scholarship was named after Torres Jr. 

“You don’t get over something like that so easily. Well, you never get over it. You try to wrap your mind around it, try to accept it. Make the best of it. And keep his memory alive. Ricardo, I love him so much,” said Rankins at the award ceremony Sunday night. 

Rankins was also appointed to the Hamden Fire Commission earlier this year to help lead and grow the fire department. He plans to join the New Haven fire department again this fall, to do what he does best: keeping his community safe. 

“I feel like that’s the best way I could do to honor Ricardo. I’m sure that he would want me to get back there, back there on the streets. I’m going to give it a shot,” he said. 

To view the other award recipients, click here.