Local firefighters honored at 28th Firefighter of the Year Awards

Ceremony held in Worcester

WORCESTER, Mass. (WWLP) -Firefighters from western Massachusetts were honored in Worcester Tuesday morning at the 28th annual Firefighter of the Year Awards.

Governor Charlie Baker and State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey recognized firefighters from 22 different fire departments across the state for their heroic acts of bravery at the award ceremony.

“Most firefighters would just tell you that they’re just doing their job,” Holyoke Fire Captain Davide Rex said.

On January 1st, 2017, instead of celebrating New Years Day with family, Holyoke firefighters rushed to save dozens of lives as a deadly inferno tore through this apartment complex. Their efforts weren’t forgotten.

Seven Holyoke firefighters were honored at the ceremony Tuesday morning. There was a standing ovation and Medal of Valor presentation for three in particular – Firefighters Anthony Deroy and Daniel Spafford and Lieutenant Philip Kraus, for repeatedly going into the burning building to save lives.

“When we heard he was the one up there literally pulling 7 people out of the window by himself, it’s happy and sad moments,” Kerri Kraus, husband of Lt. Kraus, said. “We’re so proud he was able to help all these families.”

Stories of bravery from firefighters in Turners Falls, Gill and Pittsfield were also shared and applauded by the governor and colleagues from across the state.

“We should all be thankful. Thankful that men and women find this to be their course in life and their cause,” Governor Charlie Baker said.

As important as fighting fires is preventing them. Firefighters from the Western Mass Safety and Fire Education Association, or SAFE group, were presented with the Stephen D. Coan Fire Marshal Award.

“We’ve worked so hard for 10 years and we’re beyond grateful to be honored today,” Chicopee Fire Lieutenant and President of SAFE Katie Collins-Kalbaugh said.

RECAP: Honorees at this year’s Firefighter of the Year ceremony:

  • Holyoke’s Lt. Philip Kraus, Firefighter Anthony Deroy, and Firefighter Daniel Spafford were awarded Medals of Valor for their heroic efforts in the New Year’s Day fire on North East Street. Holyoke Deputy Chief David O’Connor, Captain James Cadigan, Firefighter Lawrence Jackson Jr., and Firefighter James Tourigny were awarded as a group for meritorious conduct during that same fire.
  • Turners Falls Captain Michael Currie and Gill Firefighter Eric Vassar were honored with a meritorious conduct award for their heroic efforts in connection to a drowning last summer.
  • The Stephen D. Coan Fire Marshal Award was presented to members of the Western Massachusetts Safety and Fire Education Association: Chicopee Lieutenant Katherine Collins-Kalbaugh; Palmer Firefighter Laurie Rocco; Holyoke Lieutenant Maria Pelchar; Hatfield Firefighter’s Greg Dibrindisi and Edwin McGlew; Agawam Firefighter Pam Murphy; Northampton Firefighter Natalie Stollmyer; Southwick Fire Chief Russell Anderson and Fire Educator Lisa Anderson; Springfield Retired Lieutenant Neil Hawley and Firefighters Warren Barnett, Willie Spears, and Pablo Flores; Belchertown Firefighter Craig Bodamer; Orange Firefighter Meaghan Ahearn South Hadley District #1 Chief William Judd, ret., Lieutenant Jason Houle, Firefighter Evan Briant; South Hadley District #2 Firefighter Donald May; Ware Deputy Chief Edward Wholch Angela Erti, Angela’s Imprints Kelly Kelly, MetLife Auto & Home’s Paul Zielinski, BMC Healthnet and Loren Davine, NoFIRES.