Driftless men honored for lifesaving efforts in Waukon

By Robert Bremner

“We were on our way back to the shop and we were a couple miles outside of town and we could see the smoke...”

Four men received the Governor’s Lifesaving Awards in a ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol Dec. 16. Dan Mathis, Barry Nobles, Dan Liddiard, of Waukon, and Archie Jorgenson, of Harmony, Minn., aided in rescuing a family from a fire at Gus & Tony’s in Waukon on Feb. 10, 2020. 
Jorgensen, Liddiard and Nobles received the Meritorious Service Award while Mathis received the Lifesaving Award. The men were four of 35 Iowans honored for lifesaving incident responses in 2020 and 2021. 
“We were on our way back to the shop and we were a couple miles outside of town and we could see the smoke,” said Dan Mathis. Mathis and Barry Nobles were on their way back to work in Waukon early that morning. They saw a cloud of smoke billowing out of the downtown Gus and Tony’s building. 
Following the smoke, they heard screaming. A woman and her two children living in the apartment above the restaurant were calling out from a second story window. Dan Liddiard explained, “It’s a real old building, so each floor is, like, 10 feet,” Liddiard was the first witness to run for help, “It was 15 feet to the bottom of the window.”
Liddiard, having previous experience as a volunteer fireman, alerted everyone in the nearest building to vacate the premises and call for help. During this time, Mathis and Noble used a ladder from their truck to rescue the family. Mathis, with the ladder held by Nobles, rushed up to the apartment to retrieve the oldest child first. Archie Jorgenson then assisted with a longer ladder. Mathis then rescued the mother and her toddler and at the last second, the family dog. 
Liddiard commented, “Believe it or not, a dog does not want to be carried down a ladder.”

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