Has a senior citizen in your community responded appropriately during an emergency? Did they demonstrate key fire and life safety behaviors; dialing 911 to report an incident; respond to a fire alarm correctly by promptly exiting the building; or perform a lifesaving medical maneuver? Do you think that this senior citizen's commendable actions should be recognized? Well, Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan agrees! That is why the Department of Fire Services, Public Education Unit is instituting the "Golden Heroes" program.

In general, older adults 65 years and older are three times as likely to be killed or injured in a fire, compared to the population at large. That risk increases to three and a half times that of the general population by age 75 and four and a half times by age of 85. Over 43% of fatal fire victims in 2013 were older adults over the age of 65. Scald burn injuries were the leading cause of burns to older adults, causing 35% of the burn injuries in senior citizens. Flame burns followed with 27%, contact burns with 15%, fires with 12%, and explosions with 12%. It is important that senior citizens do everything in their power to prevent fires and survive to teach their grandchildren about fire safety.

Meet our most recent Golden Heroes:

Robert Levesque – Swansea

Robert Levesque

On July 4, 2014 Swansea Fire Communications received a call for smoke coming from the community center of our local housing authority complex that resulted in moderate damage. Robert Levesque, a, 72-year-old resident who happens to be a retired fire fighter, noticed what appeared to be smoke coming from the roof or eaves of the building. Seeing that it had just rained earlier, he quickly checked the roofs of the other buildings to see if it was condensation from the sun heating up the roofs of the buildings. Realizing the other building had no condensation, and knowing now that it was smoke, he reported it to the fire department. The fire department arrived on scene and extinguished an attic fire. The Swansea Fire Department has taught the “Remembering When” program several times at the complex over the years and Lt. Rego attributes this program for promoting fire safety among older adults.

Susan Vancelette - Worcester

Susan Vancelette

On September 24, 2014, 68-year-old Susan Vancelette was at home when around 5:15 p.m. when a neighbor knocked on her door and asked for help. Susan followed her neighbor back to her apartment and when they arrived Susan observed smoke and flames coming from her neighbor’s oven. She sprang into action and immediately shut the oven door and turned off the stove. She then escorted her friend out of her apartment, closed the apartment door and called 9-1-1. After exiting safely she pulled the fire alarm to alert the other occupants of the building. Susan’s quick thinking and ability to be calm in an emergency helped to prevent this situation from getting worse. When the fire department arrived the fire was confined to just the oven and the smoke caused minimal damage. Sandra Dionis, the resident services coordinator at Illyrian Gardens praised Susan for her efforts by stating, “We are very fortunate to have Susan living in our building”. Fire Inspector Jeffrey Spring of the Worcester Fire Department is happy to say that Susan’s actions are indicative of the lessons that she learned during her attendance at a recent fire safety seminar. And Susan was happy to say she would be showing her award to her first grade students where she volunteers to show them how important it is to listen and learn.

Nominate a Golden Hero 
To notify the Department of Fire Services about a senior citizen whose actions during an emergency are deserving of recognition, contact Cynthia Ouellette in the Public Education Unit at: