Firefighters from 14 Massachusetts departments were honored Tuesday at the annual Firefighter of the Year ceremony for their courage and exceptional service to the Commonwealth.
The Department of Fire Services said the event, held at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, was attended by Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Public Safety Secretary Terrence M. Reidy, and state Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey.
Baker, Reidy, and Ostroskey presented six medals of valor, six individual awards for meritorious service, six group awards for meritorious service, one Norman Knight Award for Excellence in Community Service, and one Stephen D. Coan Fire Marshal’s Award, the department said in a statement.
“These awards recognize acts of bravery and dedication that are remarkable even by the high standard set for Massachusetts firefighters,” Baker said in the statement. “Through their courage, compassion, and commitment to helping others no matter the risk to themselves, the men and women we honor today represent the very best of the fire service.”
The six medal of valor recipients were Carver Fire Lieutenant Christopher J. Mahoney, New Bedford Firefighter Paul Medeiros, Saugus Firefighter Greg Cinelli, Somerville Lieutenant Danielle O’Hearn, Springfield Firefighter George Vasquez, and Worcester Firefighter Jon Paul Paige, officials said.
Mahoney, the statement said, was honored for rescuing a woman from her home amid raging flames and smoke on July 19, 2020. Medeiros, officials said, grabbed a man who had jumped from a burning building in New Bedford on March 21, 2021, preventing him from falling.
Cinelli, the statement said, managed to disarm a man who had stabbed three police officers who tried to interview him at his Saugus residence on Aug. 6, 2020.
O’Hearn, officials said, on Dec. 30, 2020 suffered head, hand and leg injuries as she rescued an older man from a Somerville fire, pushing herself off a burning porch while using her body and protective gear as a shield to protect the guy, who was unharmed.
Vasquez, the statement said, found two firefighters on Dec. 24, 2020, who had fallen through a ceiling into the basement of a Springfield home during a fire. One of those firefighters was “low on air and injured” in the basement, and “Engine 8 members were able to knock down the fire in the stairway and help to remove him to medical aid,” the release said, adding that all firefighters made full recoveries and the occupants got out safely.
And Paige, officials said, was off-duty in Worcester on June 2, 2021, when he sprang into action at an intersection on Route 20, where a 74-year-old SUV driver was shot during an altercation with a group of dirt bike riders.
When the shooter tried to pick up his dirt bike, the release said, he dropped the gun and Paige tried to grab it, but the shooter retrieved the weapon first and pointed it at Paige’s face before speeding off. Paige then focused on the victim, who was bleeding from a gunshot wound to his femoral artery, according to the statement, using the man’s belt as a makeshift tourniquet until a passing ambulance stopped to help.
“Thankfully, the victim survived his injury,” the statement said.
Ostroskey lauded the courage of these honorees.
“Firefighters have helped make Massachusetts a national leader in fire prevention strategies and one of the most fire-safe states in the country,” Ostroskey said. “But when a fire does break out and puts people in danger, Massachusetts firefighters are there to bring them to safety — no matter when, where, or what the call might be. The Firefighter of the Year awards recognize their individual and collective acts of bravery and service that truly go above and beyond the call of duty.”