Robert Z. Fortner

On May 2, 2022, two boys, 7 and 8, were inside their Clarksville, Tennessee home when a fire broke out in the kitchen on the same floor as their bedroom. Robert Z. Fortner, a 29-year-old K-9 handler of Waverly, Tennessee, was on patrol nearby when he heard a report of children possibly trapped inside a burning building. He went to the scene, noticed smoke rising from the home and approached the front door, kicked it in, but he was unable to enter due to smoke. Fortner went to the backyard, where the mother of the boys pointed to a bedroom window of the home. Fortner retrieved a ladder and used it to reach the window. He smashed the window open and cleared the frame of glass. He then went headfirst through the window, landing on the bedroom floor inside a play structure. He crawled through the opening in the play structure farther into the bedroom where heat was intense and visibility was poor. Fortner found the 7-year-old boy, crying, and he grasped him under the arm, crawled back through the play structure to the window and handed him to a sheriff’s deputy. He crawled back through the structure where he found the 8-year-old, who was unconscious. Fortner grasped him by the arm and dragged him to the window where he handed the boy to the deputy before exiting the home. Both boys recovered after being taken to the hospital for evaluation and treatment. Fortner suffered smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning, but recovered.