IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) --Sgt. Brian Sims stood on stage before his colleagues with the Orange County Sheriff's Department, back on the job he feared he might never return to after Jan. 20, 2015.
That day, Sims arrived at a San Juan Capistrano fire to see a woman lowering people from a second floor condo.
"Once we got everyone out that we could at the time, I still heard some screaming coming from the interior of the residence and that's when I went around to the front of the residence and up the staircase," Sims recalled.
Suddenly Sims was hit by a flash of smoke and heat; a backdraft.
"Not being able to breathe, like you're under water and trying to get that last breath of air and you can't breathe," described Sims.
He made it back down the stairs and pointed firefighters in the direction of the screams.
A mother and her two little boys were rushed to the hospital. Sims was also severely injured.
He spent six days in the hospital and underwent several months of therapy to get his lungs generating oxygenated blood again so he could return to work.
Sims suffered permanent lung damage and said his immune system was compromised, making it easier for him to get sick.
On Thursday, Sims joined nearly 30 others being honored at the Medal of Valor ceremony for showing extraordinary courage.
"It's a glimpse for the public into what law enforcement officers do," said Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens at the ceremony held at the Hotel Irvine. "I think it's critically important at this time with all the negativity about law enforcement nationwide to remind the public about what they do."
"It is an honor, it is," said Sims, choking back tears. "My heart goes out to the families that endured this loss."
The honor was bittersweet, as the three victims he helped rescued later died in the hospital. Six others were saved.
Sims was awarded the Medal of Courage and the Purple Heart.
The full list of 2016 honorees is listed below with a description provided by the Orange County Sheriff's Department:
MEDAL FOR LIFESAVING
Deputy Jasen De Pasquale - On September 17, 2015, Deputy Jasen De Pasquale convinced a suicidal 26-year-old man not to leap from a freeway overpass. His professional and calm demeanor and decisive actions prevented the emotionally distraught young man from taking his own life.
Deputy Gil Dorado, Deputy Nick Stiefken - On February 19, 2015, Deputy Nick Stiefken and Deputy Gil Dorado conducted CPR on a 66-year-old drowning victim. Their quick response and determined lifesaving efforts saved her life.
Investigator Rich Reyes, Deputy Gary Hamchuk - On March 14, 2015, Investigator Rich Reyes and Deputy Gary Hamchuk performed CPR on a 77-year-old woman whose heart had stopped beating. Their immediate and skillful actions saved the woman's life.
Deputy Juan Lopez, Deputy Kevin Taylor - On June 20, 2015, Deputy Juan Lopez and Deputy Kevin Taylor administered CPR to a 54-year-old woman who was not breathing and had no pulse. Their quick response and effective and tenacious actions saved the life of the woman.
Deputy Rob Pequeno, Deputy Ron Laquian - On November 16, 2015, Deputy Rob Pequeno and Deputy Ron Laquian performed CPR on a 57-year-old victim of respiratory arrest. Their quick, effective first aid enabled the victim to receive needed oxygen and restored his ability to breathe on his own, saving his life.
Deputy Ryan Durham, Deputy Kevin Kelly - On November 18, 2015, Deputy Ryan Durham and Deputy Kevin Kelly performed CPR on a 13-year-old girl who was discovered, unresponsive, at the bottom of a pool. Their immediate and effective actions ensured the survival of the young drowning victim.
Deputy Anthony Garza - On December 26, 2015, Deputy Anthony Garza administered CPR to a 66-year-old man who had a heart attack in a movie theater. His extraordinary efforts, assisted by two civilians, were instrumental in saving the man's life.
Deputy Sonia Tipantiza, Deputy Matt Townsen - On March 30, 2015, Deputy Sonia Tipantiza and Deputy Matt Townsen performed CPR on a 73-year-old female with no pulse. They administered effective CPR to the woman for a lengthy period of time and saved the woman's life.
Deputy Vic Valdez - On February 10, 2015, Deputy Vic Valdez administered CPR to a seriously injured motorcyclist on the freeway. His efforts enabled the victim of this terrible collision to survive the crash and receive additional care for his life-threatening injuries.
Sergeant Scott Steinle, Deputy Nick Doty - On March 23, 2015, Sergeant Scott Steinle and Deputy Nick Doty administered CPR to a 66-year-old man who suffered a heart attack while on a walk near his home. Their immediate and effective actions saved the man's life.
Deputy Apryl Soapes - On August 17, 2015, Deputy Apryl Soapes administered emergency first aid to a suicidal 67-year-old woman with three self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Her immediate action saved the life of the woman.
Sergeant D.J. Haldeman, Deputy Ron Reyes - On September 7, 2015, Sergeant DJ Haldeman and Deputy Ron Reyes provided CPR to an 85-year-old man who fell and hit his head after suffering a heart attack. Their persistent and efficient CPR saved the man's life.
Deputy Dave Leathers - On August 5, 2015, Deputy Dave Leathers provided lifesaving first aid to a 25 year-old motorcyclist with severe head injuries. His rapid response and heroic efforts saved the life of the man.
MEDAL OF MERIT
Deputy Pete Chavez, Deputy Mike Leeb, Deputy Jack Mullvain - In 2015, Deputy Pete Chavez, Deputy Mike Leeb and Deputy Jack Mullvain created the "Six Points for Kids" program to provide at-risk and needy kids in our neighborhoods the gift of badly needed supplies, an opportunity to bond with law enforcement personnel and a chance to develop a real sense of community.
Deputy Dan Mc Namee, Deputy Eric Shaw - For their extraordinary actions as Honor Guard Team Leaders during the year 2015, Deputy Daniel Mc Namee and Deputy Eric Shaw are deserving of recognition for their meritorious service to the Orange County Sheriff's Department Honor Guard and the law enforcement community across the nation.
MEDAL OF COURAGE
Deputy Gil Dorado - On July 22, 2015, Deputy Gil Dorado courageously entered a burning building to find a woman still inside searching for her pet cats. Due to his brave actions, no one was harmed during this potentially deadly event.
MEDAL OF COURAGE / PURPLE HEART MEDAL
Sergeant Brian Sims - On January 20, 2015, Sergeant Brian Sims suffered severe, permanent injuries to his lungs while courageously attempting to rescue three people from a burning building. Because of his heroic actions, firefighters were able to find the victims, providing them a chance of survival.
PURPLE HEART MEDAL
Deputy Eric Shaw - On March 9, 2015, Deputy Eric Shaw suffered a severe arm laceration when he was the victim of a vicious, unprovoked attack by a disturbed inmate. Although he has recovered and returned to work, he still suffers from the after effects of the injury and is permanently disfigured.
DISTINGUISHED DEPUTY MEDAL
Sergeant Dave Chewiwie - Sergeant Dave Chewiwie has made a career of mentoring and training his fellow Deputies and is a proud 30-year veteran of the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Dave has lead, inspired and impacted the Department and community with a legacy of service and commitment above self which will serve as a benchmark for all future generations of Deputies.