CHICOPEE — A group of Chicopee firefighters received a Governor’s Citation for Meritorious Conduct during the 34th annual Firefighter of the Year Awards.

The ceremony recognized 130 firefighters from 22 departments across the state.

On Nov. 21, Gov. Maura Healey and Public Safety Secretary Terrence Reidy joined State Fire Marshal Jon Davine to honor 130 firefighters and 22 departments across Massachusetts.

“Each year, the Firefighter of the Year Awards recognize acts of bravery, heroism and service that are truly remarkable — even by the remarkable standards set by Massachusetts firefighters,” Healey said. “From structure fires to rushing waters, this year’s recipients defied grave danger to protect lives and preserve property. It’s an honor to celebrate them as individuals and teams. They represent the very finest in a tradition of helping others in times of danger and crisis.”

In Chicopee, the individuals recognized were Deputy Chief Peter Jerusik, Captain Robert McQueen, Lieutenant Robert M. Tetreault, Lieutenant Kirsten Therrien, Firefighters Adam Anischik, Preston Bailey, Joe Berge, Drew Brzoska, Nathan Carvalho, Rember Wildami Parada, John Skaza, Matthew Turgeon and Tyler R. Vaccaro.

According to the Department of Fire Services, “Shortly after midnight on Christmas Eve 2022, Chicopee firefighters responded to a structure fire on Chicopee Street with a child trapped on the third floor. With 10-degree temperatures causing immediate icing and water supply issues, they battled both the elements and the heavy fire blocking their access from the porch.”

Tetreault began a “transitional attack to suppress that raging fire and allow entry” while Therrien stretched a second hose line up a ground ladder to the crews fighting the fire, the department said.

They continued, “The combination of hose lines knocked down the fire, allowing [McQueen] and [Skaza] to make entry. With the assistance of [Anischik,] they were able to locate and rescue the young boy.”

Despite challenges such as McQueen’s SCBA facepiece fogging and freezing up — due to the temperature difference from the fire room to the exterior — and limiting his visibility as he descended the stairs, Jerusik met them on the second floor and brought the child outside to the ambulance.

“The child had no pulse and was not breathing. EMTs resuscitated him enroute to the hospital, along with a family member who had also been rescued from the home. Tragically, the young boy’s injuries were too severe, and he succumbed to those injuries several days later. But the fact that every step in this incredible response was accomplished within 10 minutes of the initial 9-1-1 call gave his loved ones the chance to say goodbye in a place of peace and dignity,” The Department for Fire Services shared.
Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll said, “Massachusetts firefighters have an extraordinary capacity for bravery, technical knowledge and kindness toward those in their greatest moment of need. As a former mayor now serving in statewide office, my admiration of the fire service has only grown when I consider the varied, complex scenes they respond to every day across our 351 cities and towns.”

“The firefighters we recognize today used every physical, mental, and technical skill available to them under some of the most extreme conditions imaginable,” Davine said. “They relied on their training, their teamwork, and their determination to get the job done.

Healey, Reidy and Davine presented seven medals of valor, 12 individual citations for meritorious conduct, 10 group citations for meritorious conduct, two Stephen D. Coan Fire Marshal’s Awards, and one Norman Knight Award for Excellence in Community Service to members of 22 Massachusetts fire departments.

According to the Department of Fire Services, most of the awards reflected lifesaving rescues performed individually and collectively by on- and off-duty firefighters at structure fires and crash sites.

Chicopee Fire Chief Daniel Stamborski was contacted for comment but did not respond as of press time.

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