Matthew Bainbridge is given his probationary firefighter shield from Capt. Neil Myers.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — On Tuesday, Matthew Bainbridge and Abigail Lemanski attended the state's 28th annual Firefighter of the Year Awards ceremony.
There were hundreds of firefighters from throughout the state honored for heroic efforts. And the medal of honor was given to posthumously to Watertown Firefighter Joseph A. Toscano.
They saw the heroism and they saw the risks.
The two were just Pittsfield Fire Department recruits on that day. The next afternoon though, their families pinned their new badges to their uniform and they became probationary firefighters in the department.
"Matt and Abigail got to go there and it is not something we usually get to take fresh people, new recruits to. It is not something we go to every year," Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said. "But I think it was kind of an eye-opener for them to see what types of heroic acts go on across the Commonwealth on an annual basis."
Czerwinski addressed the pair's families, fellow firefighters, and members of the City Council who had gathered at headquarters for a graduation ceremony. Bainbridge and Lemanski were appointed to the department in October and have now completed the five weeks of training. Notably, Lemanski is the department's first female firefighter.
"They received a lot of great training over that time. They had a lot of great meals at the fire station, learning some of the tricks and pranks that we do. But I think they are excited to be done with that and get on the floor and ride on the back of the truck and start a new career for the rest of their lives," Czerwinski said.
"This isn't a job. It is a career. You always have to keep learning and you always have to know what is coming next. The next call you go on could be something trivial or it could be something major so we always have to have people on their toes."
The chief urged them to continue learning about the profession. On Tuesday, two city firefighters were honored by the governor at the ceremony for a "great rescue and a great effort." But, the department has been on the other side as well with firefighters being killed in the line of duty.
"That's not something I want any of our families to go through. We've had line of duty deaths here and we really don't want to see it. We want to be on the other end, saving lives," Czerwinski said. "I hope they are safe every day."
Training Officer Capt. Neil Myers has been with them throughout the last five weeks and after he handed them their probationary firefighter helmet shields, he left them with a challenge.
"All of us here at the PFD challenge you ton continuously educate yourself and not become a statistic. Stay hungry, stay focused, listen to your partners on the job, watch, practice, and do your job. Work hard and pass it on to those who follow you," Meyers said.
"Remember where you are today and remember how hard you worked toward this career and remind yourself of this when you get mired down by distractions and the stress that frustrate all of us from time to time. Appreciate that you've earned a career where you have the opportunity to positively affect the outcome of someone else's worst day."
He told them to look to all of the veterans in the firehouse and learn from their experiences. And as their career progresses, pass it on to those who follow in their footsteps.
The short ceremony opened with a blessing from Fire Department Chaplain Peter Gregory and ended with the cutting of a cake.
Bainbridge and Lemanski are part of the third group of recruits to graduate this year. There are some 15 probationary firefighters currently working in the Department. The probationary title lasts a year before they start to move up the ranks.
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Kathleen Theoharides, secretary of energy and environmental affairs, visits the site of culvert project in Pittsfield being funded through the state's climate readiness program.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides was in Pittsfield on Friday to review a state-funded culvert site and meet with local officials to discuss the state's climate readiness program.
She joined Mayor Linda Tyer at the Churchill Street culvert, a site which recently received grant funding through the state's Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program. The city was awarded an $814,524 state grant in June for the Churchill Brook and West Street Culvert Replacement Project.
Through the MVP program, which begun in 2017, municipalities identify key climate-related hazards, vulnerabilities and strengths, develop adaptation actions, and prioritize next steps. The initiative which initially started as a $500,000 capital grant program has now increased to $12 million. Pittsfield is among the 71 percent of communities across the commonwealth now enrolled in the MVP program.
"The governor and the lieutenant governor have made resilient infrastructure a priority all across the state and I think it's really important to know that we have a really vested interest in Western Massachusetts communities as well as all across the state, not forgetting the Berkshires or Pioneer Valley," said Theoharides in a statement. "Our MVP program is really focused on these types of partnership investments and looking to design infrastructure for the challenges we're seeing today and moving forward as climate change increases."
Four names will be on the preliminary ballot but only three candidates showed for the debate held by the Pittsfield Gazette and hosted at Berkshire Community College. The moderator was radio host Larry Kratka and Pittsfield Community Television aired the event.
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