Hero firefighters from Peabody and Worcester to be honored on Tuesday

Peabody firefighter James Rice rushed into a three-family home last December fighting through heavy smoke, searching for victims. He collapsed on the second floor of the building and was carried out of the burning home by a fellow firefighter. Rice did not survive.

Worcester firefighter John Davies entered a three-family building that was on fire last December searching for a person trapped in a rear bedroom. While Davies was on the first floor, the roof, attic, and second and third floors collapsed, killing him.

The two firefighters, who made the ultimate sacrifice, will receive medals of honor posthumously Tuesday at the state’s 23d annual “Firefighter of the Year” awards.


Governor Deval Patrick, Mary Elizabeth Heffernan, secretary of public safety and security, and Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan will recognize acts of heroism by presenting 31 awards to 72 honorees.

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The event will take place at Mechanics Hall in Worcester at 10:30 a.m., according to a statement from the state fire marshal’s office.

“At tomorrow’s event we’ll be honoring the bravery of the Commonwealth’s firefighters who must be prepared to face anything and everything with each alarm,” Coan said in a statement. “We will honor them for all they do to protect us and sadly, we will especially honor two firefighters who gave their lives to protect their communities.”

Firefighters from Bridgewater, Brookline, Easton, Hyannis, Leominster, Lynn, Maynard, Peabody, Salem, Saugus, Stow, Swansea, Westfield, and Worcester will be honored during the ceremony.

Rice, 42, an 11-year veteran Peabody firefighter, entered the three-alarm fire on Hancock Street, just two days before Christmas, but was beaten back by heavy smoke and flames.


Deputy Chief Eric Harrison learned of a downed firefighter on the second floor and raced up the stairs with his crew. Harrison located Rice, who was unresponsive, and carried him out of the home.

Rice was taken to Salem Hospital, but did not survive.

He leaves his wife, Amy, and three children, Alyssa, 13, Katelyn, 10, and Ryan, 8.

Davies, 43, a 17-year veteran of the Worcester Fire Department, entered a blaze on Arlington Street on Dec. 8 searching for a missing occupant of the building.

He became trapped under debris when the building collapsed. Davies was pulled from the rubble by fellow firefighters, but did not survive.


Davies leaves three sons -- two of whom are in the military with one currently serving in Afghanistan, and a third serving as a member of the Worcester Fire Department.

Melissa Werthmann can be reached at