Three volunteer firefighters from the Halifax area will be recognized in Ottawa for risking their lives during a dangerous rescue at Peggys Cove in 2010.

Jason Sparkes, Greg Kutney and Randy Johnson returned to the rocks at Peggys Cove on Monday, three years after a young man was pulled into the ocean by a large wave during a storm.

Fire crews were called to Peggys Cove on Nov. 6, 2010. They were told a man could be heard yelling for help from the water.

“I remember everything from leaving my house to go get the truck, to driving down here, talking about what we needed to do, turning the corner into the cove and realizing our plan was not going to work because the waves were just too big,” says Kutney.

RCMP and paramedics also responded to the scene and RCMP Const. Chris Richard was also swept into the ocean during the rescue effort.

“Seeing a slim opportunity to save Const. Richard, firefighter Sparkes ran to the bottom of the rocks, jumped down to his position, and held the officer against the rocks as a 25-foot wave enveloped them,” says Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Deputy Chief Brian Gray.

“All I was thinking was if we don’t get him now, we’re not going to get him,” says Sparkes.

Richard and Sparkes were both pulled into the water but Sparkes managed to pull himself and the officer back onto the rocks.

Kutney and Johnson then helped to lift the officer and Sparkes to higher ground.

“You’re with these people a lot more and I mean sometimes more than you’re with your family, depending on how busy it is, what kind of season it is, and you know they got your back,” says Johnson.

The young man they were originally trying to save died and his body was later recovered.

“One family did lose a member that day and another family actually got to spend time with their family member, so it’s kind of a bittersweet situation,” says Sparkes.

Sparkes, Kutney and Johnson will receive Decorations for Bravery from Gov. Gen. David Johnston at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Dec. 5.

It will be the second time in history that a firefighter from the Halifax area has been honoured for bravery.

The first came in 1980 when Lt. Bazil Landry was recognized for the dramatic rescue of a small child from a house fire in Halifax.

“It’s an odd sensation because, you know, we don’t do it for the recognition or anything like that, you just do it because it needs to be done and to help the community,” says Kutney. “But it is an honour to be recognized.”

With files from CTV Atlantic's Jacqueline Foster