31st Mass. Firefighter of the Year awards highlight rescues, virus response

Fallen Worcester Lt. Jason Menard was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor


Jessica Trufant
The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass.

STOW, Mass. — Firefighters from Hanover, Hanson and Rockland were honored Monday during the 31st annual Firefighter of the Year awards, which was held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Public Safety and Security Secretary Thomas Turco and State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey announced the awards, which honor Massachusetts fire departments whose acts of bravery and public service made a difference in their communities during fiscal year 2020.

Rockland firefighters who rescued a woman from a five-alarm blaze in January 2020 were among those honored at the 31st Massachusetts Firefighter of the Year awards on Monday.
Rockland firefighters who rescued a woman from a five-alarm blaze in January 2020 were among those honored at the 31st Massachusetts Firefighter of the Year awards on Monday. (Photo/Marc Vasconcellos, The Enterprise)

“While the last year has been different in so many ways, one thing that hasn’t changed is the way firefighters have continued to respond to every call for help, regardless of any threat to their own health or safety,” Baker said. “We are proud to honor their bravery and sacrifice through these awards and to reflect on their unwavering service.”

Firefighters and paramedics from Hanover Fire Department received the Norman Knight Community Service Award for a COVID-19 testing program launched in March of 2020.

Deputy Chief Jason Cavallaro, Captain Fred Freeman, and firefighter/paramedics Shayne Blakeman, Joseph Centeio, Joseph Pacella, Sebastian Rivas, Richard Salvucci and Kyle Stetler worked together to launch a mobile testing concept, received the necessary training, applied and received grant funding and received the necessary license.

Testing began on April 14, and by the end of June, the team had tested more than 100 patients. In September, the program expanded to include testing of teachers, school staff and symptomatic students.

Firefighters from the Hanson Fire Department received the Governor’s Citation for Meritorious Conduct for their response to a water rescue on New Year's Eve of 2019.

Chief Jerome A. Thompson Jr., Lt. Keith Wilson, and firefighters Timothy Royer, Gary Somers and Thomas White were honored for their response to reports of two people in the water at Maquan Pond, which was partially covered in ice. Using a rescue boat, sled and rescue suits, the firefighters got to the men, who had fallen out of a kayak, just in time before they slipped underwater.

Rockland Fire Department Capt. Jason Fricker and firefighter Michael Tracy received the Medal of Valor and firefighter Richard Furlong Sr. received the Governor’s Citation for Meritorious Conduct for their response to a fire on Jan. 2, 2020. Fricker and Tracy entered the building and as they were about to enter the second floor apartment, they heard a moaning above them.

Tracy climbed the stairs and found a woman who had lost consciousness. Fricker kept the flames at bay while Tracy brought the woman downstairs, where Furlong and Rockland Police Officers gave her oxygen and emergency medical care. The fire eventually reached five alarms and displaced 20 residents, but all survived. The woman rescued by Fricker and Tracy was discharged from the hospital within hours and made a full recovery.

Worcester Fire Department Lt. Jason Menard received the Medal of Honor posthumously for the Nov. 13, 2019 fire that claimed his life. Menard and another firefighter became trapped during the fire while searching for an infant that was reportedly still in the home. As they searched for an escape, Menard forced the other firefighter out a third floor window, saving his life. Ultimately, Menard was unable to get himself out of the building before he was overcome with heat from the blaze.

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(c)2021 The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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