Mass. firefighters honored for saving lives
On the morning of Feb. 7, two off-duty Chicopee firefighters — Michael A. Croteau and Matthew J. Turgeon — were ice fishing at a pond in Easthampton when a man pulling a little boy on a sled suddenly fell through the ice. Croteau and Turgeon rushed over to help, and were able to rescue both the man and the child and pull them out of the freezing cold water.
On Feb. 28, Worcester fire Lieutenant Timothy Ridick was returning home from a funeral when he stopped at a friend’s house and heard a fire alarm go off at a house next door, and saw flames coming from the second-floor window. Ridick, who was wearing his dress uniform and no protective gear, went up into the house and started crawling on the floor, yelling to see if anyone needed help. He found two disoriented people inside and led them out to safety.
On May 29, Revere firefighters rescued a 60-year-old man from a mobile home that had caught on fire. The man, who was unconscious and barely breathing, survived the ordeal and recently stopped by the fire station to thank the firefighters who saved his life.
Those were just some of the acts of bravery that were recognized at the 29th annual Firefighter of the Year Awards ceremony, according to a press release from the governor’s office and the Department of Fire Services. The event, which took place at Mechanics Hall in Worcester on Tuesday morning, was attended by Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Public Safety Secretary Daniel Bennett, Undersecretary of Homeland Security Patrick McMurray, and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey. WCVB-TV anchor Maria Stephanos served as the emcee.
Among this year’s honorees were firefighters from Abington, Ayer, Chicopee, Centerville-Osterville-Marston Mills, Fall River, Marion, Mattapoisett, Montgomery, Revere, Rochester, Wilbraham, Worcester, and the Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team, officials said.
Ostroskey praised the Northwestern Youth Fire Intervention Response, Education and Safety Partnership (an initiative known as NoFIRES), which received the Stephen D. Coan Fire Marshal’s Award for its efforts to prevent youth-set fires in Western Massachusetts.
“They bring together fire investigators, law enforcement, juvenile justice professionals, fire educators and mental health clinicians to the table to share best practices to help these at risk children and their families,” Ostroskey said in the press release.
The Excellence in Leadership Award was presented to the Fraternal Order of Firefighter Military Veterans Inc., a nonprofit organization that advocates for the mental health of firefighters who are also veterans.
“So many of today’s firefighters also served in the military,” McMurray said in the press release. “Both experiences can create a need to safely manage the stress and cumulative effect of seeing so much tragedy.”
The Medal of Honor award was presented posthumously to Montgomery Fire Chief Stephen P. Frye, who collapsed while fighting a fire in December 2017 and died soon afterward at the hospital. A 24-year veteran of the department, Frye is survived by his wife and two grown children, including his son, who is also a member of the volunteer Montgomery Fire Department.