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Press Release Baker-Polito Administration Presents 33rd Annual Firefighter of the Year Awards

22 Individuals and Seven Groups Recognized for Bravery, Heroism, and Service
For immediate release:
11/18/2022
  • Office of Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito
  • Executive Office of Public Safety and Security
  • Department of Fire Services

Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Presents 33rd Annual Firefighter of the Year Awards

Jake Wark, Public Information Officer

Firefighters medals

WORCESTERGovernor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, and Public Safety Secretary Terrence M. Reidy today joined State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey to honor firefighters from across Massachusetts at the 33rd annual Firefighter of the Year Awards ceremony, held at Worcester’s Mechanics Hall. WCVB’s Doug Meehan emceed the event.

“Over and over again, we see firefighters putting themselves in harm’s way or even life-threatening danger to rescue strangers from harm,” said Governor Baker. “These awards reflect selfless acts of courage, compassion, and service by truly remarkable public servants.”

“Even by the high standards we see in the fire service every day, certain actions truly rise above and beyond the call of duty,” said Lt. Governor Polito. “The Firefighter of the Year awards recognize those heroes among us who rush to help whenever that bell rings. On duty or off, they’re the ones we can always count on to risk everything so that others might live.”

“Across the Commonwealth, professional and volunteer firefighters use their training and expertise to deliver life-saving service in – what is for many – their greatest hour of need,” said Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy. “We honor today’s recipients for their extraordinary acts of bravery and service and extend our sincere gratitude to fire safety personnel who work selflessly and tirelessly to keep our communities safe.”

“The common theme in these awards is heroic action to protect vulnerable people from harm,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “It may be pulling a trapped occupant through the third-floor window of a burning home. It may be protecting a distraught person on the ledge of a building. It may be providing education, services, and crisis resources in their communities. And it may be protecting firefighters from the grave threat that occupational cancer poses to their health and safety. Regardless of the circumstances, each of them is a true hero.”

Governor Baker, Secretary Reidy, and State Fire Marshal Ostroskey presented 10 medals of valor, nine individual citations for meritorious conduct, seven group citations for meritorious conduct, and two Norman Knight Award for Excellence in Community Service to members of 17 Massachusetts fire departments. The awards reflect lifesaving rescues, lengthy and complex operations at structure fires and crash sites, and off-duty action to render medical aid when every second counted.

The Stephen D. Coan Fire Marshal’s Award is the only award for which non-firefighters may be eligible. State Fire Marshal Ostroskey presented this award to a dermatologist from Harvard, Massachusetts, who volunteers through the Department of Fire Services to screen thousands of firefighters for skin cancer, a form of occupational cancer for which firefighters are at heightened risk. Her brother, a Chelsea firefighter and Massachusetts Firefighting Academy instructor, lost his life to occupational cancer at just 37 years old.

The awards and recipients are as follows, with incident summaries below:

Medals of Valor:

  • Lynn – Captain John Lynch and Firefighter John Moloney
  • Nahant – Senior Firefighter Frank Anthony Pappalardo and Firefighter Matthew Canty
  • Natick – Firefighter/Paramedic Matthew Higgins and Firefighter/Paramedic Michael Salvucci
  • New Bedford – Lieutenant Charles Bailey and Firefighter Anthony Resendes
  • New Bedford – Captain Brandon Silva and Firefighter Neal David Costa

Individual Citations for Meritorious Conduct

  • Ashby – Deputy Chief James Joseph
  • Bellingham – Captain Robert Provost III
  • Fall River – Firefighter Brandon Norbut
  • Hopkinton – Lieutenant Scott Jurasek
  • Lawrence – Captain Eric Zahn
  • Springfield – Lieutenant Brian Couture and Firefighter Joshua Rios
  • TewksburyCaptain David Carney and Lieutenant Robert Keddie

Group Citations for Meritorious Conduct

  • Berlin (with Bolton) – Capt. Anthony Alessi, Lt. Jonathan Paulino, Firefighter Frank Brewer, and Firefighter/EMT Michelle Deveau
  • Bolton (with Berlin) – Fire Chief/Paramedic Jeffrey Legendre, Captain Peter Casello, Firefighter/EMT Gregory Childs, Firefighter/Paramedic Shayne Cook, Firefighter/EMT Wesley “Chip” Durant III, Firefighter/Paramedic Jeremy O’Connell, and Firefighter/Paramedic Jason Roach
  • Fall River – District Chief Jeffrey Bacon, District Chief Matt Johnson, Deputy Chief Michael Shea, Captain Paul Berube, Captain Michael Cabral, Captain Eric Caffery, Captain Kevin Emond, Captain Jason Lewis, Captain Neil Furtado, Lieutenant Jon Braz, Lieutenant Daniel Gerling, Lieutenant Chris Lecomte, Lieutenant Paul Machado, Lieutenant Christopher Medeiros, Lieutenant Michael Medeiros, Lieutenant Kevin Poirier, Firefighter Bruce Alves, Firefighter Scott D. Camara, Firefighter Michael Carvalho, Firefighter Scott Casey, Firefighter Scott Chretien, Firefighter Michael Cusick, Firefighter Patrick Donnelly, Firefighter Brian Dorsky, Firefighter Dave Duarte, Firefighter Keith Dumaine, Firefighter Robert Forand, Firefighter Nick Freitas, Firefighter Ken Furtado Jr., Firefighter Anthony Hout, Firefighter Brandon Jackson, Firefighter Paul Kosinski, Firefighter Michael LaFleur, Firefighter Scott Lovenbury, Firefighter Gary Martins, Firefighter Brandon Norbut, Firefighter Mitchell Nunes, Firefighter John Pimental, Firefighter Cristian Ponte, Firefighter Kyle A. Rogers, Firefighter Henry Santos Jr., Firefighter Dennis Sardinha, Firefighter Brian Shea, Firefighter Jeffrey Silvia, Firefighter Ian Stevens, Firefighter Olusoji Taiwo, Firefighter Phillip Tessier, Firefighter Christian Thiboutot, Firefighter Donovan Torres, and Firefighter Michael Viveiros
  • Foxborough (with North Attleborough) – Firefighter/Paramedic Cory Shepardson
  • Lawrence – Lieutenant Ryan Lavallee, Firefighter Luis Severino, and Firefighter Jeffrey Young
  • Lynn – Captain John Lynch, Firefighter Thomas Lowry, Jr., Firefighter John Moloney, and Firefighter Michael O’Connor
  • New Bedford – Lieutenant Charles Bailey, Firefighter Richard McCue, Firefighter Anthony Resendes, and Firefighter Kevin Sweet
  • North Attleborough (with Foxborough) – Chief Christopher Coleman, Captain Joshua Langille, Captain George McKinnon, Lieutenant Jeffery S. Badger, Lieutenant Scott Langille, and Firefighter Richard McDonagh (Ret.)
  • Stoughton – Captain George O’Neil, Lieutenant Ryan Cabral, Lieutenant David Jardin, Firefighter Jerry Fowler, Firefighter Morgan Genatossio, Firefighter John Hussey, Firefighter Joseph Manganaro, Firefighter George Silva, and Firefighter Justin Slowinski

Norman Knight Award for Excellence in Community Service

  • Eastham – Lieutenant Rachel Topal
  • Lawrence – Firefighter Juan “Manny” Gonzalez

Stephen D. Coan Fire Marshal Award

Since their inception in 1990, the Firefighter of the Year Awards have grown from a simple ceremony to the premier annual event for the Massachusetts fire service, honoring truly remarkable acts of courage, service, and sacrifice by the Commonwealth’s firefighters and recognizing their invaluable contributions to the communities they serve. 

 

2022 Firefighter of the Year Honorees, Awards, and Incident Summaries by Department:

 

Ashby Fire Department

Individual Citation for Meritorious Conduct

Deputy Chief James Joseph

Just after 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 4, 2021, Deputy Chief James Joseph was the first firefighter on scene at a working fire in a rooming house. Upon arrival, he saw heavy smoke and an occupant leaning out of a top floor window.

Since the Ashby Fire Department is a full call department after 5:00 p.m., Deputy Chief Joseph responded directly from his home. With limited tools and equipment at his disposal, Deputy Chief Joseph immediately entered the home with only his gear and a water can, attempting to reach the top floor. With no line or back-up, he held back a significant amount of fire but was not able to advance past heavy smoke and flames. He exited the home, grabbed a 24-foot ground ladder from the first responding engine, and threw it up to the top floor with the help of two retired firefighters who had also arrived. He raced up the ladder, rescued the victim through the window, and helped the man down to safety.

 

Bellingham Fire Department

Individual Citation for Meritorious Conduct

Captain Robert Provost, III

On the afternoon of July 2, 2022, Captain Robert Provost was off duty and working out at the gym when he was notified of a medical emergency. He immediately found the victim, an older adult who had collapsed and was in cardiac arrest. Capt. Provost initiated CPR and then used a defibrillator from the gym to revive the man before EMS arrived, playing a crucial and lifesaving role when every second mattered.

 

Bolton Fire Department      

Group Citation for Meritorious Conduct

Fire Chief/Paramedic Jeffrey Legendre

Captain Peter Casello

Firefighter/EMT Gregory Childs

Firefighter/EMT Wesley “Chip” Durant, III

Firefighter/Paramedic Shayne Cook

Firefighter/Paramedic Jeremy O'Connell

Firefighter/Paramedic Jason Roach

Berlin Fire Department

Group Citation for Meritorious Conduct

Captain Anthony Alessi

Lieutenant Jonathan Paulino 

Firefighter Frank Brewer

Firefighter/EMT Michelle Deveau

On the morning of June 8, 2022, the Bolton Fire Department was notified of a motor vehicle accident on Interstate 495 involving a single vehicle that went off the road at high speed.  The first responding personnel observed a minivan partially submerged in a swamp at the bottom of a 60-foot ravine. They reported that two occupants were trapped and unresponsive. Bolton and Berlin Fire have automatic aid agreements for Interstate 495, and crews from both departments took part in a demanding rescue operation over incredibly challenging terrain. The Jaws of Life, Stokes baskets, first aid bags, and other equipment had to be rigged and lowered to the vehicle. Several trees had to be removed so firefighters could safely transport the patients up the steep incline to a waiting Med Flight helicopter and ambulance. Despite the complex nature of this operation, the entire incident from dispatch to last unit cleared was just 60 minutes -- and both victims recovered from their injuries.

 

Eastham Fire Department

Norman Knight Award for Excellence in Community Service

Lieutenant Rachel Topal

Lieutenant Rachel Topal has been the Eastham Fire Department’s Community Outreach Coordinator for the past decade. In addition to her duties as a shift lieutenant, she educates children and seniors on fire safety and prevention. She hosts “Read with a Firefighter” at the firehouse and the local library, and she coordinates the annual Community Health Fair with the Council on Aging. Recognizing the unique safety hazards that older adults face, Lt. Topal routinely visits at-risk seniors on her days off just to check in on them. She routinely works with the Council on Aging to identify the most vulnerable residents to be sure they receive all the social and safety services they need. Lt. Topal is a lifeline for many members of Eastham’s growing elder population, and she personifies the Department’s community service mission.

 

Fall River Fire Department

Group Citation for Meritorious Conduct

District Chief Jeffrey Bacon

District Chief Matt Johnson

Deputy Chief Michael Shea

Captain Paul Berube

Captain Michael Cabral

Captain Eric Caffery

Captain Kevin Emond

Captain Jason Lewis

Captain Neil Furtado

Lieutenant Jon Braz

Lieutenant Daniel Gerling

Lieutenant Chris Lecomte

Lieutenant Paul Machado

Lieutenant Christopher Medeiros

Lieutenant Michael Medeiros

Lieutenant Kevin Poirier

Firefighter Bruce Alves

Firefighter Scott D. Camara

Firefighter Michael Carvalho

Firefighter Scott Casey

Firefighter Scott Chretien

Firefighter Michael Cusick

Firefighter Patrick Donnelly

Firefighter Brian Dorsky

Firefighter Dave Duarte

Firefighter Keith Dumaine

Firefighter Robert Forand

Firefighter Nick Freitas

Firefighter Ken Furtado Jr.

Firefighter Anthony Hout

Firefighter Brandon Jackson

Firefighter Paul Kosinski

Firefighter Michael LaFleur

Firefighter Scott Lovenbury

Firefighter Gary Martins

Firefighter Brandon Norbut

Firefighter Mitchell Nunes

Firefighter John Pimental

Firefighter Cristian Ponte

Firefighter Kyle A. Rogers

Firefighter Henry Santos Jr.

Firefighter Dennis Sardinha

Firefighter Brian Shea

Firefighter Jeffrey Silvia

Firefighter Ian Stevens

Firefighter Olusoji Taiwo

Firefighter Phillip Tessier

Firefighter Christian Thiboutot 

Firefighter Dovovan Torres

Firefighter Michael Viveiros

Individual Citation for Meritorious Conduct

Firefighter Brandon Norbut

On the afternoon of January 29, 2022, New England was in the grip of a blizzard that dumped more than two feet of snow on southeastern Massachusetts. Winds of 65 MPH created white-out conditions with near-zero visibility, and busy streets came to a standstill.

These were the conditions when a four-alarm fire broke out on Irving Street in Fall River.

Firefighter Brandon Norbut, a recent hire on the Fall River Fire Department, was on a day off at home when he smelled smoke and saw it coming from the eaves of a nearby building. He immediately called 9-1-1 to report the emergency and then – without any protective gear – raced out of his house and into the structure. Checking the apartments as he ascended the stairs, he ensured that all occupants got out safely – including one who had ignored the heavy smoke and returned to retrieve some possessions.

Outside, the heavy snow accumulation and illegally parked vehicles made nearby streets almost impassible. Responding apparatus had to be assisted by snowplows and residents who were pushing cars out of the way. When the Deputy Chief’s vehicle was blocked by a disabled and abandoned tow truck, he had to walk the last few blocks to the scene.

FF Norbut briefed the crews on arrival and when a recall was ordered he immediately volunteered. Like every member of the Department onscene that evening, he worked tirelessly to protect the exposed buildings from a worsening structure fire in a dense residential neighborhood. It was his first significant fire on the job, and this fire drew every resource the Fall River Fire Department had at its disposal.

After battling their way to the scene, crews had to battle the elements as well as the heavy fire.  They shoveled out hydrants, pulled attack lines through the snow, cleared the way for plows and apparatus, and waded through the hip-deep snowbanks and water runoff to battle the blaze.  As firefighters worked keep it from spreading to nearby homes and garages, the fire reached the roof and caused it to collapse. Flames blew from every window, with embers six to twelve inches blowing onto nearby houses and cars. Temperatures were now plummeting, with equipment, walkways, and hose lines starting to freeze. By 7:00 p.m. the fire was under control.

Two firefighters were injured at the scene. One suffered a severe hand injury using a forcible entry tool, and another suffered neck and leg injuries after falling on the ice. The building suffered catastrophic damage, but Fall River’s firefighters prevented it from spreading the rest of the neighborhood. If not for their monumental efforts in blinding snow and subfreezing winds, the cost in lives and property could have been much greater.

 

Hopkinton Fire Department

Individual Citation for Meritorious Conduct

Lieutenant Scott Jurasek

Firefighters respond to emergencies every day. But when Lieutenant Scott Jurasek arrived at a Hopkinton home on the afternoon of May 15, 2022, he found a crisis of a different kind: a distraught 14-year-old boy was on the roof of the house, not responding to repeated calls from below. Lt. Jurasek requested assistance from the Ashland Fire Department’s tower. While Hopkinton fire and police monitored the teen’s location from the street, Lt. Jurasek entered the home and went up to the second floor. He climbed out the window and up to a steeply pitched section of roof 40 feet in the air. Over the next 40 minutes, Lt. Jurasek calmly built a rapport with the teen, gained his trust, and eventually convinced him to accept help.  Without any safety equipment, but using the most effective tool available – his heart – he got the boy into Ashland’s tower bucket and down to safety.

 

Lawrence Fire Department

Norman Knight Award for Excellence in Community Service

Firefighter Juan “Manny” Gonzalez

Firefighter Manny Gonzalez is the co-founder of “Heal Lawrence,” an organization that works with families who have been affected by a fire at home. Heal Lawrence steps in after a disaster and helps provide families with clothes, food, housing, and personal care items. This past April, when 73 residents were displaced from their homes after a large building fire, Heal Lawrence was able to partner with city and state resources and provide lodging free of charge for victims for five days.

Having seen firsthand the devastation that fires can cause, FF Gonzalez frequently appears on a local radio show to speak about fire prevention, fire safety, and the importance of renter’s insurance. He even helps residents complete the renter’s insurance application. His ability to communicate in English and Spanish has been invaluable in reaching a wide range of Lawrence’s Latino population. He is a source of comfort, knowledge, assistance, and resources for his community.  In the words of Chief Brian Moriarty, “This guy is Lawrence.”

 

Lawrence Fire Department

Individual Citation for Meritorious Conduct

Captain Eric Zahn

Captain Eric Zahn was off-duty on the morning of June 9 when he saw a car that had hit the guardrail on Route 495 and driven off the road. There was no one else at the scene – he was the first of the first responders and pulled over to help. Capt. Zahn found a man at the wheel unconscious and bleeding from the head. He was unresponsive, had no pulse, and wasn’t breathing. Moments later, a good Samaritan stopped to assist, and together they removed the passenger from the car. They performed CPR on the patient until additional firefighters and paramedics arrived, defibrillated him, and continued resuscitation efforts. The man was transported to Lawrence General Hospital where he was alert upon arrival.  Capt. Zahn’s instinct to help and effective early action made him the first link in the chain of actions that saved the patient’s life.

 

Lawrence Fire Department

Group Citation for Meritorious Conduct

Lieutenant Ryan Lavallee

Firefighter Luis Severino

Firefighter Jeffrey M. Young

When Lawrence firefighters responded to an early morning call on Christmas Eve to a shed near the Falls Bridge, they found smoke coming from the small utility building.  Ladder 4 forced the metal commercial door from the jamb but soon realized it was chained and padlocked from the other side. This could only mean one thing – someone was inside, and they were in danger.

Firefighters immediately grabbed a set of bolt cutters and snapped the chain. They entered to find a heavily involved room with fire and heavy smoke over their heads. Inside, they discovered a man in his 80s who was unconscious and slumped over debris.  They dragged him out to safety, where they administered oxygen and cardiopulmonary resuscitation until he regained consciousness. Firefighters later learned that the man was homeless and had lit a candle in this makeshift shelter. Given the locked door and his condition on their arrival, there is no question that he would have lost his life if not for their rapid action.

 

Lynn Fire Department

Group Citation for Meritorious Conduct

Firefighter Thomas P. Lowry Jr 

Captain John Lynch

Firefighter John Moloney                 

Firefighter Michael O’Connor

Medal of Valor

Captain John Lynch

Firefighter John Moloney

On Jan. 6, Ladder Company 1 of the Lynn Fire Department responded to a request for assistance from the Lynn Police Department. A man in emotional crisis was threatening to jump from the fifth floor of a parking garage. Police and mental health workers were attempting to console him but the man was extremely distraught and clinging to the outside of the railing. In the course of these events, Lynn firefighters maneuvered the ladder truck into position and quietly extended the aerial into position directly behind him. Time was of the essence, and their first concern was getting to the patient – they positioned themselves at the tip of the aerial with no tether and no other support.

On cue and working in unison, the first responders quickly secured the distressed man to the ledge. Firefighter John Moloney pinned him tightly to the railing to prevent him from jumping or falling. Captain John Lynch positioned himself to stabilize and support FF Moloney. The group was able to forcibly lift the man – who was vigorously resisting at this point – up and over the railing and onto the roof deck. He was secured to a stretcher and transported to the hospital for evaluation. 

Ladder Company 1 worked in seamless partnership to position the apparatus, maneuver the aerial, and save a man in crisis. Capt. Lynch and FF Moloney went so far as to risk their lives in doing so, representing the highest values of the fire service.

 

Nahant Fire Department

Medal of Valor

Senior Firefighter Frank Anthony Pappalardo

Firefighter Matthew J. Canty

Just before midnight on Dec. 23, 2021, the Nahant Fire Department was called to a single-family home with heavy smoke and fire coming from the windows and an attic vent. Police at the scene reported that there was an older adult in a wheelchair trapped inside a bathroom.

Engine 31 was on scene within a minute of dispatch. Firefighters Matthew Canty and Frank Pappalardo entered the front door with a 1¾ inch hose line and immediately encountered heavy fire. As FF Canty applied water to the fire, FF Pappalardo proceeded past it to the bathroom and started to wheel the victim toward the exit. Excessive clutter hampered the escape and the man slipped out of the wheelchair. FF Canty left the hose line to help FF Pappalardo carry the man to the front door, where police carried him to an ambulance.

The preliminary information was that the man was home alone, but Nahant Fire was familiar with the residents and believed his wife would be home with him. FFs Canty and Pappalardo entered the home again to complete the primary search and found her unresponsive on the kitchen floor. Together they carried her carried her from the structure.

FFs Canty and Pappalardo risked their lives and safety to carry an injured senior to safety from a raging fire – and then did it again because they knew their community and believed there was a chance of saving another life.  Both victims survived their injuries and recovered out of state.

 

Natick Fire Department

Medal of Valor

Firefighter/Paramedic Matthew Higgins

Firefighter/Paramedic Michael Salvucci

Just before 4:00 a.m. on Dec. 18, 2021, Natick firefighters responded to a report of the smell of smoke at a 12-unit apartment complex. When they arrived, they found heavy fire pouring out from the first-floor apartment and a witness who said there was still one occupant inside. The witness was the trapped occupant’s son.

The man had tried to rescue his mother, but the heavy, choking smoke was made it impossible. Firefighter Michael Salvucci, who was acting lieutenant at the incident, and Firefighter Matthew Higgins entered the window leading to the victim’s room. As flames roared around them and conditions quickly deteriorated, they located the victim and removed her through the window to EMS care.

The mother and son were both transported to hospitals. Though gravely injured, the mother held on for several months before passing away. The bold and decisive action by FFs Salvucci and Higgins gave her loved ones a chance to say goodbye in a place of peace and dignity.

 

New Bedford Fire Department

Group Citation for Meritorious Conduct

Lieutenant Charles Bailey

Firefighter Richard McCue

Firefighter Anthony Resendes

Firefighter Kevin Sweet

Medal of Valor

Lieutenant Charles Bailey

Firefighter Anthony Resendes

On the afternoon of Sept. 19, 2021, New Bedford Fire responded to a three-family home for reports of an air conditioner fire. On arrival, crews found a window AC unit on fire laying on the sidewalk and smoke coming from the second-floor window. As the incident commander surveyed the building, he saw an open window on the Charlie side with black smoke venting from it and a woman and small child peering out. Crews immediately threw a ground ladder into place while additional personnel made entry to attack the fire.

The mother, already burned and terrified, wanted to drop the child to firefighters. Instead, Lieutenant Charles Bailey and Firefighter Anthony Resendes ascended the ladder, rescuing the woman and child through the window. The child was autistic and non-verbal, but Lt. Bailey was able to communicate with him using sign language. The victims had second-degree burns and the mother was on a ventilator for a week – but both made full recoveries thanks to the teamwork and daring rescue effort by firefighters at the scene.

 

New Bedford Fire Department

Medal of Valor

Captain Brandon Silvia

Firefighter Neal David Costa

New Bedford Engine Company 1 responded to an early-morning fire on Dec. 6, 2021, at a triple-decker apartment building. On arrival, they were told that one occupant, an older adult, was unaccounted for and might still be inside.

Captain Brandon Silvia and Firefighter David Costa raced up to the second floor, where the man lived. They were unable to force entry through the front or rear because of heavy clutter that created barricades against the doors. The fire – which had started in the elderly man’s apartment – extended into the second-floor common area and they were finally able to force open the rear door to conduct a search while another crew worked to extinguish the fire. Once inside, Capt. Silvia and FF Costa located the unconscious man and began a desperate effort to move accumulated belongings out of the way to effect his rescue as conditions deteriorated.

The 65-year-old man was in cardiac arrest when firefighters transported him out of the building. Tragically, despite valiant efforts by firefighters and paramedics, he succumbed to his injuries at an area hospital later that morning.

 

North Attleborough Fire Department

Group Citation for Meritorious Conduct

Chief Christopher Coleman

Captain Joshua Langille

Captain George McKinnon

Lieutenant Jeffery S. Badger

Lieutenant Scott Langille

Firefighter Richard McDonagh (ret.)

Foxborough Fire Department

Group Citation for Meritorious Conduct

Firefighter/Paramedic Cory Shepardson

The IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial in Colorado Springs honors firefighters who have given their lives in the line of duty. On Sept. 16, 2021, North Attleboro Fire Chief Christopher Coleman, along with other off-duty and retired firefighters from North Attleborough and Foxborough, were on their way to visit the site in memory of fallen comrades.

They were about 45 minutes into their flight, traveling 30,000 feet in the air, when they saw a fellow passenger in his 60s suddenly begin turning gray and become unresponsive. The man had no pulse.

The group immediately removed him from his seat and into the aisle, where they administered CPR and advanced life support until they got a pulse. They were able to administer an IV line and stabilize him until the plane touched down in Chicago. The patient was transported by waiting paramedics to a local hospital and recovered – thanks to a group of firefighters who are never truly off duty.

 

Springfield Fire Department

Group Citation for Meritorious Conduct

Lieutenant Brian Couture

Firefighter Joshua Rios

In the early morning hours of Dec. 27, 2021, the Springfield Fire Department’s Engine 3 was first on scene at a structure fire in a three-story multifamily home. While en route, they received word of people trapped on the third floor.

Upon arrival they saw two occupants yelling for help from the attic window. Lieutenant Brian Couture and Firefighter Joshua Rios threw their 24-foot ground ladder to the base of the third-floor window. Lt. Couture started up the ladder the instant it made contact with the building, advancing up to the first victim and helping guide her from the window, onto the ladder, and down to safety. Firefighter Rios, a brand-new probationary firefighter, then ascended to the third-floor window and coaxed the second victim onto the ladder and brought her down as well.

 

Stoughton Fire Department

Group Citation for Meritorious Conduct

Captain George O'Neil

Lieutenant Ryan Cabral

Lieutenant David Jardin

Firefighter Jerry Fowler

Firefighter Morgan Genatossio

Firefighter John Hussey

Firefighter Joseph Manganaro

Firefighter George Silva

Firefighter Justin Slowinski

There were heavy winds and snowfall when the Stoughton Fire Department responded to a single-vehicle crash just after midnight on Jan. 14, 2022. The vehicle landed on its roof after crashing into a utility pole and fire hydrant, and the driver was trapped inside. The crash caused catastrophic damage to the vehicle and grievous injuries to the operator. The scene was complicated further by downed utility wires and extreme weather conditions.

The extent of the damage meant extrication tools required one person to operate them and another to act as his eyes – a process that took some 45 minutes to complete safely while also providing life-saving patient care. MedFlight was requested but all helicopters were grounded due to the weather conditions and Engine 1 was detailed to the Ambulance for transport to Boston Medical Center. The victim spent 10 days in the hospital before he was released to a rehab facility – surviving devastating injuries thanks to the teamwork and professionalism of his rescuers.

 

Tewksbury Fire Department

Citation for Meritorious Conduct

Captain David Carney

Lieutenant Robert P. Keddie

On Sept.18, 2021, the Tewksbury Fire Department responded to an automatic fire alarm activation at a senior housing development. There was no sign of fire when the firefighters arrived. However, upon investigation, Captain David Carney spotted heavy smoke coming from an end unit.

Lieutenant Robert Keddie entered the unit to perform a primary search and immediately encountered heavy smoke banking down to the floor. He located the resident, who was semi-conscious and unresponsive in the bathroom. The man was hanging over the bathtub, tightly clutching the handrail. Lt. Keddie was able to pry the male’s hands from the handrail and attempted to drag him outside. The man’s size made this a challenging rescue, but Capt. Carney made his way in and without benefit of SCBA assisted in his removal. Together, Capt. Varney and Lt. Keddie got the man out of danger and into the front yard, where he was administered first aid oxygen. The man was airlifted to a Boston hospital where – thanks to rapid action in the nick of time – he made a full recovery.

 

Civilian Partner with Department of Fire Services

Stephen D. Coan Fire Marshal’s Award

Dr. Christine Kannler, MD, of Harvard MA

Award presentation by State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey:

“Firefighting is an inherently dangerous calling. But of all the hazards we confront each day, occupational cancer is the one most likely to take our lives. Firefighters are far more likely than the general public to be diagnosed with cancer, to develop it earlier in life, and to discover it in its later stages. 

“Dr. Christine Kannler is determined to improve our odds.

Dr. Kannler is a passionate advocate and a tireless crusader for cancer awareness, prevention, and early detection in the fire service. As a board-certified dermatologist, she’s made it her mission to screen as many firefighters as possible for skin cancer, helping them to identify, treat, and survive a potentially deadly diagnosis.

“It’s a mission with deeply personal roots. Like almost everyone in this room, Dr. Kannler lost someone in the fire service to occupational cancer. Her brother, Peter Kannler, was a Chelsea firefighter and Academy instructor who lost his own battle with cancer in 2016, when he was just 37 years old.

“Following Peter’s tragic death, Dr. Kannler put her training to use by independently offering free skin cancer screenings to any firefighter who was interested. After initially working on her own, she contacted the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy in 2018 to see if we could expand her reach. Since that time, the interest has exploded, and she’s screened 3,265 firefighters at scores of local firehouses, union meetings, and other venues across the Commonwealth – all on her own time.

“To give you an idea of how urgently these services are needed, about 16% of Dr. Kannler’s firefighter patients require follow-up care.  That’s a rate 60% higher than the public they protect. Time and again, we hear the same five words from firefighters who beat melanoma because she helped them spot it in time: “Dr. Kannler saved my life.”

“The fire service is becoming much more attuned to occupational cancer than we used to be. But most of us don’t have a dermatologist who can provide meaningful information and a clinical exam. Dr. Kannler has made that resource available, on request, in the very places we live and work.  And her perseverance has brought her before state and national dermatological associations, where she presses her case for similar programs nationwide. So far, about 10 other states are trying partnerships like ours – and we hope many more will follow.

“The Firefighter of the Year Awards recognize acts of life-saving heroism by our brother and sister firefighters. Dr. Kannler might not be a firefighter, but she’s a hero and a lifesaver all the same.  It’s my great honor to present the 2022 Stephen D. Coan Fire Marshal’s Award to Dr. Christine Kannler.

###

Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Presents 33rd Annual Firefighter of the Year Awards

Office of Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito 

Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and the Baker-Polito Administration are committed to serving the people of Massachusetts and making the Commonwealth a great place to live, work and raise a family.

Executive Office of Public Safety and Security 

EOPSS is responsible for the policy development and budgetary oversight of its secretariat agencies, independent programs, and several boards which aid in crime prevention, homeland security preparedness, and ensuring the safety of residents and visitors in the Commonwealth.

Department of Fire Services 

The Department of Fire Services helps keep communities safe. We provide firefighter training, public education, fire prevention, code enforcement, licensing, fire investigation, hazardous material response, and emergency response.
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