Awakened by a loud blast in the middle of the night on June 23, 2018, Sergeant Michael Fonseca ran out his Burlington home to find his neighbours home on fire.
Their propane tank had exploded and the elderly couple was trapped in their residence.
Without protective equipment, the qualified bomb technician entered the home and fought his way through dense black smoke and intense heat until he located them.
“I knew that in this rural location, emergency responders would take time to arrive,” said Fonseca, who joined the Service in 1999 and is assigned to the Emergency Task Force. “The situation was grave and I had to act.”
Fonseca vividly remembers the evening.
“It was the day before my first shift as a newly minted sergeant going on the road,” he recalled. “I arrived late because of the incident.”
Fonseca was among six Toronto Police Service officers honoured with the Ontario Medal for Police Bravery for their outstanding courage.
“It’s an honour to receive an award of such a magnitude, particularly because it involved my elderly neighbours,” he said.
The other recipients were Sergeants Ryan Barnett and Josh McSweeney, Detective-Constable Kenny Lam and Constables Hongfei Zhou and Volodymyr Zvezdoinkin.
On the evening of August 17, 2018, Sergeants Barnett and McSweeney rescued two men from the brink of drowning inside a flooded elevator. They were recognized for their decisive action with the Toronto Police Officer of the Year Award in 2019.
Following the April 23, 2018 Van Attack on Yonge St. that killed 11 people and injured many others, Detective-Constable Lam arrested the driver.
Constables Zhou and Zvezdonkim were the officers to locate the man who opened fire and killed two people along the Danforth on July 22, 2018.
Chief James Ramer said it is essential to recognize the officers’ extraordinary service.
“I also think it is incumbent on us to recognize this work,” he said. “They went above and beyond the call of duty in many ways in terms of risk to themselves.”
These medals are the province’s highest honours in recognition of police and firefighters whose actions demonstrate bravery in the line of duty.
Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell also thanked the officers for their bravery.
“We acknowledge them for providing the foundation of care that has made their selfless deeds possible,” she said. “At the top of your medals is a royal crown. You are receiving this honour in a year that marks the Platinum Jubilee for Her Majesty the Queen who has given Canada and the Commonwealth 70 years of service. These are medals inspiring you to continue your dedication to the public good. Perhaps not for 70 years, but may it deepen your connection to the history of pubic service that has helped to build our communities and it continues to reinforce our democracy.”
Medals were also presented to firefighters.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said Ontario is fortunate to be home to the best police and firefighters in the country.
“It was a privilege and great honour to recognize 43 of these heroic first responders with medals of bravery,” she added. “Every day, firefighters and police officers risk their lives to keep us safe. Their work is an inspiration to us all and, on behalf of a grateful province, we thank them for their dedication to their communities and their extraordinary courage.”