29th Annual Firefighter of the Year Awards

29th Annual Firefighter of the Year Awards
7 from Worcester Fire Department receive recognition at Firefighter of the Year Awards at Mechanics Hall
Gov. Charlie Baker looked at the crowd of firefighters and their families inside Mechanics Hall in Worcester Tuesday and began to recall one of the worst days in the history of the Worcester Fire Department. 

The Dec. 3, 1999 Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. fire claimed the lives of six Worcester firefighters when a massive blaze erupted in the maze-like building. 

Firefighters knew the building was dangerous, Baker said, but they answered the call and battled the blaze until the flames were out. 

He recalled the response by firefighters on Sept. 13 when fires and explosions erupted in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

Several departments and firefighters across the state were honored at the 29th Annual Firefighter of the Year Awards Ceremony Tuesday. 

As Baker discussed the actions of firefighters, he looked at the family of fallen Montgomery Fire Chief Stephen P. Frye and thanked them for his service. 

Frye, who collapsed and died fighting a Dec. 2017 fire, was given the Medal of Honor posthumously, during the ceremony. 

Award recipients: Captain Jeff Eldridge, Rochester FD, Lieutenant Justin Dubois, Mattapoisett FD, Lieutenant Ross Macedo, Mattapoisett FD, Firefighter Tracey Eldridge, Rochester FD, and Firefighter Joshua Fardy, Marion FD 

Volunteer and call firefighters with the Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester Fire Departments have teamed up to develop a unique and fun way to engage young adults in fire safety. The Explorer Program began in 2017, graduated 11 students in 2018 and currently has 10 students enrolled this year. Called the MMR Hose Co., the students, all aged 14-18, meet a few times a week and learn many of the same skills recruits learn in the fire academy. 

The curriculum includes ice and boat rescues, structure fires and ventilation, field trips to museums, Otis Air Force, several fire stations and earning their certificates for CPR, AED and first aid. Four of the 2018 graduates have gone on to work within these departments.

It was a cold wintry morning on Feb. 7 when off-duty Firefighters Michael Croteau and Matthew Turgeon were ice fishing at Nashawannuck Pond in Easthampton. Nearby, a man was pulling his young child on a sled when the man fell through the ice. 

Firefighters Croteau and Turgeon immediately jumped into action and were within feet of reaching the child, when he too fell into the water. Firefighter Turgeon, with no lifesaving gear, jumped into the freezing cold water and was able to pull the child to safety. 

A bystander helped the child, and both firefighters rescued the man out of the water. This entire rescue was completed before the Easthampton Fire Department arrived on scene from their station located 400 feet from the incident. Both the father and child were released from the hospital later that day.

Firefighter/Paramedic Adam Hart arrived to a very chaotic scene on the evening of June 29 at the Chicopee River. A woman and a child were struggling to stay afloat in the water and another adult and child were on the other side of the river, separated by the rivers current “vortex.” 

This site has been the scene of many drownings through the years. Two men in a boat who attempted to rescue the people were missing. Firefighter/Paramedic Hart commandeered a kayak from a bystander and went out into the river with no water safety equipment. 

Paddling into the current, he was able to rescue the mother and child. Ludlow Fire Department arrived on scene and were able to rescue the other woman and child. All four were later released from the hospital without injuries. Unfortunately, the two would-be rescuers were both found dead, one that evening and the other three days later down the stream.

Award recipients: Lieutenant William Brown, Deputy Chief Anthony Giampietro, Firefighter William Petrilli and Firefighter Patrick Roosa 

On the evening of May 29, Revere firefighters responded to multiple calls for a mobile home fire on Revere Beach Parkway. Crews at the station closest to the fire were at Revere Beach on a water rescue. 

Upon arrival, Deputy Chief Giampietro reported smoke and fire showing from a unit in the rear of the facility and residents reported the occupant was still inside. 

Deputy Chief Giampietro forced entry into the unit and encountered heavy fire and smoke. When Ladder 2 arrived, they too started searching for the victim with zero visibility and without the protection of a charged hose line. 

Firefighters knocked down the heavy fire using just a two-gallon water extinguisher, forcible entry, overhauling tools and their bare hands as Deputy Chief Giampietro shattered windows, cross venting the trailer to alleviate the excessive heat and smoke firefighters were dealing with.

The 60-year old man was rescued, barely breathing and unconscious and taken to Massachusetts General Hospital. After a long recovery, the man is now doing much better and stopped by the fire station earlier this month to say thank you. 

WORCESTER – Enjoying somewhat of a home-field advantage, seven Worcester firefighters heard some of the loudest cheers as the governor saluted them during the state Firefighter of the Year awards ceremony at Mechanics Hall on Tuesday.

In fairness, all of the nearly 100 firefighters from 13 fire departments who received awards heard deserved applause as Gov. Charlie Baker handed them awards for acts of heroism and bravery.

As two Worcester ladder trucks held aloft a large American flag outside Mechanics Hall, Mr. Baker gave out awards for meritorious conduct to Lt. Patrick Moran and Firefighters John Callahan and Matthew Kane; medals of valor to District Chief Adam Roche, Lt. Christopher Kelly, and Firefighter Blake Perron; and an individual medal of valor to Lt. Timothy Ridick, all of the Worcester department.

Lt. Moran and Firefighters Callahan and Kane were cited for rescuing a person from a fire at 15 Oberlin St. in June.

Smoke was coming out second-floor windows of the three-decker building, and the firefighters immediately positioned the truck and headed inside to look for occupants, explained event host Maria Stephanos, an anchor with WCVB-TV.

The firefighters forced the door open and encountered dense smoke, high heat and no visibility. The fire, which started in a bedroom, rolled through the hallway over the firefighters’ heads. Firefighter Kane found an unconscious occupant, and the firefighters were able to get the man out of the building. They performed CPR. The man was severely burned but survived.

District Chief Roche, Lt. Kelly and Firefighter Perron responded to a fire on Green Farm Road in March.

Lt. Kelly was on his way to work, Ms. Stephanos explained, when he saw smoke coming from a neighboring home.

A neighbor said there were two residents inside, and Lt. Kelly entered from the back and found a man trying to move his physically impaired 85-year-old mother out of the room.

At that point the fire was down the hallway, beyond the bedroom, cutting off the interior escape route. Lt. Kelly, who was not wearing protective gear, and amid increasing heat and smoke, pushed his upper body through a small window and directed the man to bring his mother over to the window.

Together, they tried to lift the woman up through the window, but without success. Because conditions had worsened, Lt. Kelly was forced to decide whether two lives would be lost, or save the son. He reached in, grabbed the man and pulled him through the window to safety.

Later, District Chief Roche and Firefighter Perron arrived and removed the woman through the front door. She later died of her injuries.

Authorities said the home was so hot the firefighters’ gear burned in heat estimated at 600 to 800 degrees.

Lastly, Lt. Ridick was off-duty, having returned from a funeral, when he stopped at a friends house on Hamilton Street in February. He heard a smoke alarm next door and entered the smoke-filled home without protective gear.

Lt. Ridick headed upstairs and crawled through heavy smoke while shouting to find out if anyone was inside.

Lt. Ridick entered the house again and went up to the third floor to look for the couple’s dog, which didn’t survive. Throughout the incident, he was on his cellphone with fire headquarters.

During his remarks, the governor paid homage to others: the six Worcester firefighters who died in the Cold Storage fire that occurred Dec. 3, 1999; the public safety response in the aftermath of the gas explosions in Merrimack Valley earlier this year; and the family of a fire chief who died in December while responding to a blaze in the small western Massachusetts town of Montgomery.

Regarding the Cold Storage fire, Mr. Baker said members of the Worcester department and others in fire service knew that, in the event of a fire, the gigantic structure with stupendously thick insulation would be difficult to manage and control. The governor said he repeated the story to point out that it’s unusual, special, distinctive and heroic to run into a building that dangerous.

In terms of the gas explosions, Mr. Baker lauded the “beehive of activity” from firefighters that spread more than 50 miles from North Andover to south Lawrence.

He said it was “as proud as Ive ever been to be a public servant” in Massachusetts. He said the response brought comfort to residents during a scary moment for all of them.

Speaking to the family of late Montgomery Fire Chief Stephen P. Frye, who was given a posthumous medal of honor, Mr. Baker noted that “everybody” from the community and its surrounding towns came out in response to the chief’s death “because Stephen had been there for them and answered their calls.”

Mr. Baker thanked the family for its grace, decency and courage “to so many people who went through that terrible tragedy.”


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