In a particularly moving moment, Montgomery Fire Chief Stephen Frye, who died responding to a fire on Dec. 6, 2017, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Chief Frye’s widow Laurie, their children Caitlyn and Matt, and current Chief Galipeau accepted on his behalf. #LODDpic.twitter.com/z5YJq4ETkI
WORCESTER, Mass. — The Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team and Montgomery's late longtime fire chief were among honorees at the 29th annual Firefighter of the Year Awards.
They were among the 91 individuals from 13 departments and teams recognized for heroic acts of bravery.
The event held at Worcester's Mechanics Hall on Tuesday was emceed by WCVB Channel 5's Maria Stephanos and included Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Public Safety Secretary Daniel Bennett, Undersecretary Patrick McMurray and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey.
"We are incredibly proud to honor these courageous firefighters for their bravery and service to their local communities in times of danger," said Baker, who presented the awards. "Massachusetts cities and towns are better places to live, work and raise a family because so many first responders selflessly answer to call to serve each and every day."
The members of the Western Mass Tech team were awarded a group citation for meritorious conduct for their five-day attempt in July 2017 to recover the remains of a 21-year old man who had toppled from the top of 80-foot Bash Bish Falls in Mount Washington, the highest falls in the state. In cooperation with a New York rescue team, the group used a number of swift-water rescue techniques and underwater cameras to locate the victim.
"A technically complicated recovery plan that included diverting the water was made that involved permissions from many agencies, but when the family was notified of the recovery plan, they requested that no further efforts take place," according to the Department of Fire Services' description. Department of Conservation staff later recovered the body after it became dislodged naturally from the steep ravine and caught in netting.
The firefighters are:
Agawam: Robert LaFrance, Robert Pensivy; Agawam/Dalton: Thomas Balardini; Amherst: Cap. Steve Chandler and David Holmes; Chicopee: Deputy Chief David Beauregard; Dalton/Pittsfield: Lucas Perry; Easthampton: Sandi Krauss; Great Barrington: Justin Bona and Rob Gaughran; Greenfield: Lt. Andrew Eisch; Lee: Chief Ryan Brown; Lenox: Capt. Daniel Piretti and Robert Casucci; North Adams: Michael Sherman; Northampton: Daryl Springman; Pittsfield: Capt. Mitch Kellar, Josh Healy and Scott McGinnis; South Hadley D1: Capts. James Pula and Jason Saunders; Turners Falls: Chief John Zellman, Capts. Todd Brunelle, Peter Jerusik and Brian McCarthy, and Walker Korby.
Six other Group Awards for Meritorious Conduct were presented to firefighters from Abington, Centerville-Osterville-Marston Mills, Chicopee, Revere and Worcester.
The Medal of Honor was presented posthumously to Montgomery Chief Stephen P. Frye, who died Dec. 6, 2017, after collapsing at the scene of a house fire. Frye had been chief for 13 years and a member of the small volunteer fire company for 24 years.
His wife, Laurie, their children Karlyn Patenaude and Matthew Frye, also a firefighter, and current Fire Chief Chris Galipeau accepted on his behalf.
"It is our privilege to honor the brave men and women who have all done something remarkable to earn this recognition," said Polito. "We also want to thank the families of Massachusetts firefighters for the daily sacrifices they make as their loved one serves to protect the community."
An Excellence in Leadership Award was presented to a Michael Jefferson, a firefighter and veteran who founded the Fraternal Order of Fire Fighter Military Veterans Inc., a program for firefighters to address post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Stephen D. Coan Fire Marshal Award was presented to the Northwestern Youth Fire Intervention Response, Education and Safety Partnership (NoFIRES).
"The members of NoFIRES work tirelessly to reduce the incident of youth-set fires in Western Massachusetts using effective intervention strategies," said Ostroskey. "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."
The Norman Knight Award for Excellence in Community Service was presented to Massachusetts Military Reservation (MMR) Hose Company, volunteer and call firefighters who have developed a unique and fun Explorers program with Post 343 that teaches young adults about the fire service.
An Individual Award for Meritorious Conduct to a paramedic/firefighter Adam Hart of Wilbraham for saving a woman and her child from the Chicopee River.
A dozen Medals of Valor were presented to individual firefighters from Ayer, Centerville-Osterville-Marston Mills, Fall River, and Worcester.
"Firefighters are the ones we call when someone is stranded, has fallen through the ice, mixes up pool chemicals, has a heart attack, or a fire in their home," said Bennett. "We do everything we can to support them through state-of-the art training, gear and resources to make a dangerous job a little less so."
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