When the smoke cleared on the evening of Jan. 29, 2011, the Towson community was left to lament the loss of one of its most popular watering holes, the Charles Village Pub.
Were it not for the swift action of volunteer firefighter Michael Murphy, the loss could have been far greater.
Murphy, then a member of the Providence Volunteer Fire Company, was responding with his unit to fight the blaze when a fellow firefighter became overcome and disoriented. Murphy stopped and helped him to safety — an action that likely saved his colleague's life.
For his efforts in rescuing his comrade, Murphy was scheduled to receive the Bronze Star, Baltimore County's third-highest award for sworn officers, at the Tuesday, March 27, Promotions and Commendations Ceremony at Goucher College.
"Murphy's quick thinking and reliance on his training made it possible for him to save his 'brother' from certain danger," according to a summary of the incident that was to be read at Tuesday evening's ceremony, and released by fire department spokeswoman Elise Armacost.
For Murphy, a career firefighter in Montgomery County who has since moved on to the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company as a volunteer, the award pales in comparison to the evening's final outcome.
"Awards are all fine and dandy, as long as everybody went home and he's all right," he said this week. "I'm just happy that he's OK. That's really all there is to it."
During the Charles Village Pub fire, Murphy had led a hose line up into the second floor that night, surrounded by flames and heavy smoke.
He had just gotten upstairs — he estimated they were only on the second level for a couple of minutes — when he heard a loud bang behind him.
Murphy said he turned to spray those flames when he realized that Lt. Andrew Cherney, also of the Providence Volunteer Fire Company, was no longer behind him on the line.
"I was disoriented and possibly unconscious on the second floor of the Charles Village Pub when the second floor was engulfed in flames," Cherney told the Towson Times.
They were only separated for a couple of seconds, Murphy said. He didn't remember what state he found Cherney in that night.
"I was just worried about getting him out," he said. "I didn't know what happened to him or anything. He was there, and I just grabbed him. I knew he was in trouble."
Murphy kept the hose line in his hand for a time, knocking back the flames as he retreated through the dense smoke.
When they got outside, Murphy said it took Cherney "a little bit for him to come to."
"He didn't really remember much," Murphy said.
Almost 15 months have passed since that day, and Cherney said he tries not to think about the events of that evening.
He is still a lieutenant with the Providence Volunteer Fire Company and, as of Monday, wasn't sure he'd be able to make it to Tuesday's ceremony.
Naturally, though, he believes that Murphy deserves every honor he gets for his efforts that night.
"There's no award that I can give him for what he did," Cherney said.
Towson cited for washer rescue
Additionally at Tuesday's awards ceremony, a unit citation was slated for Truck 1 of the Towson station of the Baltimore County Fire Department for its efforts in rescuing a window washer who hung unconscious between the ninth and 10th floor outside of Edenwald in Towson
When that incident occurred April 2011, Armacost said the window washer was lowering himself from the roof using a rope and harness system when "something went awry."
"Instead of lowering him slowly down, it dropped suddenly and he banged himself against the building," she said.
The man was stranded for some time until rescue workers could reach him.
Several other awards were also scheduled to be given, including the department's highest award for civilians, the Citizen's Medal of Honor.
That award was to be presented to two men, one from Owings Mills and one from Baltimore, who last April stopped a tour bus carrying 48 passengers on the Beltway when the driver fell unconscious from a heart attack.
And Citizen's Certificates of Merit were to be given to a 10-year-old girl from the Westview area who provided critical assistance when her father suffered stroke-like symptoms; a 6-year-old Catonsville girl who helped save her diabetic grandfather; and a fourth-grader from Parkville who performed the Heimlich maneuver on a friend during lunch at the school cafeteria.