BRATTLEBORO -- The men and women of the Brattleboro Fire Department and their families reserved a hour of their Sunday morning to watch their loved ones be recognized for their service and devotion at an awards program.
Brattleboro Fire Chief Mike Bucossi spoke from a podium in front of several dozen people in the Central Fire Station's meeting hall to announce the winner of every award and explain why each individual was chosen. The awards bestowed were for administering CPR to save a life, the firefighter of the year, distinguished service, reaching milestones of service and life membership.
There also was a meritorious unit citation.
Bucossi said the awards program is held to honor the men and women who entered a dangerous profession not for the glory, but to help others.
Firefighters Josh Jones and Mike Heiden were given a CPR Save Award for the actions they took at a medical call in 2008, while Lt. Mark Geno and firefighter Paul Sherburne also received awards for the life-saving measures they took in 2011, and Lt. Chuck Keir II and Heiden were formally recognized for saving someone in 2012.
Rick Crespo was named Firefighter of the Year for his on-going commitment to the Brattleboro Fire Department. Bucossi said Crespo was the perfect fit for the award because he rarely misses a meeting or training night and he has filled the roles of staging officer and accountability officer at emergency scenes.
"He performs these roles with precision and passion, as he knows how important they are. He is also great at maintaining crowd control around the Command Post," he told the crowd. "As you know, sometimes things can get hectic and noisy around the area. All I need to do is look in his direction and he is moving people back away from me. ... Simply said, he just jumps in and helps where ever help is needed, his commitment to better serve the Brattleboro Fire Department."
At one point, Assistant Fire Chief Peter Lynch took the podium with an announcement. He wanted to take the opportunity to hand Bucossi a distinguished service award.
"This award is given to any member of the fire department for an act of service involving personal risk, which is performed in a manner substantially beyond normal expectations in the line of duty," he said.
Lynch said the recognition was for the chief's work during the Brooks House fire in downtown Brattleboro on April 17, 2011.
"The 62,000-square-foot structure quickly was filled with smoke. Several interior firefighters worked feverishly to evacuate the top four floors and contain the fire that had a significant head-start," he said. "During the 10 hours and five alarms it took to bring the fire under control, Chief Bucossi was responsible for the direction of ... 150 firefighters.
"Once the fire was under control, an additional 26 hours passed before the fire was officially declared extinguished by our Chief Bucossi, who stood at his command post for most of the 36-hour fire," Lynch continued.
There were no deaths or serious injuries in the blaze.
After receiving a round of applause, Bucossi told the audience the award he had just been handed belonged to the whole department. After the ceremony, Bucossi told the Reformer he was very surprised about the honor.
"It means a lot to me," he said.
Lt. Marty Rancourt, Lt. Chuck Keir, Fire Alarm Superintendent Joe Newton and firefighter Rusty Sage were awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation for their actions during a barn collapse in Williamsville on Sept. 22, 2011.
Also, recently retired Fire Alarm Superintendent Dale Shipp got a Life Membership Award for his 39 years of service to the Brattleboro Fire Department.
Awards are given out for service at five-year intervals. Sunday's recipients of five-year awards included: dive team member Eric Davis and firefighters Michael Heiden, Matthew Hubbard, Henry Scott and Paul Sherburne; 10-year awards: Lt. Chuck Keir II and firefighters Adam Fletcher and Rusty Sage; 15-year awards: firefighter Daniel Hiner; 25-year awards: Captain Leonard Howard, Lt. Mark Geno and firefighter Allyn Olney; 30-year awards: Capt. Gary Corey and Lt. Martin Rancourt and 35-year award: Deputy Chief Steve Nelson.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.