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Tewksbury Firefighters Honored For Heroism, Bravery

Oct 29, 2014 11:11AM ● By Bill Gilman

Tewksbury firefighters honored were Deputy Chief Albert J. Vasas Jr, Captain Michael P. Callahan, Lieutenant William P. Brothers, Lieutenant James A. Giasullo Jr., Lieutenant Scott A. Keddie, Firefighter Joseph S. Dogherty, Firefighter Patrick S. Doherty, Firefighter James E. Fitzpatrick, Firefighter Joseph C. Fortunato, Firefighter David W. Levy Jr, Firefighter Daniel R. Morneault, Firefighter Thomas J. Murphy IV and Firefighter Daniel D. Sawicki.

Thirteen Tewksbury firefighters were honored Tuesday for Meritorious Conduct, bravery and heroism in a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston.

The awards were presented by Gov.Deval Patrick, Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral and State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan, as part of the 25th annual “Firefighter of the Year” Awards ceremony. In all, firefighters from 10 communities were honored.

“Today we honor amazing acts of courage and bravery by the Commonwealth’s firefighters and take a moment to thank these heroes and their families,” said Patrick. “Firefighters show a greatness of spirit and community in choosing to protect others as a profession while putting themselves in danger.”

“Every year, we honor the bravery and sacrifice of the entire fire service through these awards,” said Secretary Cabral. “This year’s recipients are extraordinary examples of those qualities.”

Tewksbury firefighters honored were  Deputy Chief Albert J. Vasas Jr, Captain Michael P. Callahan, Lieutenant William P. Brothers, Lieutenant James A. Giasullo Jr., Lieutenant Scott A. Keddie, Firefighter Joseph S. Dogherty, Firefighter Patrick S. Doherty, Firefighter James E. Fitzpatrick, Firefighter Joseph C. Fortunato, Firefighter David W. Levy Jr, Firefighter Daniel R. Morneault, Firefighter Thomas J. Murphy IV and Firefighter Daniel D. Sawicki.

 The men were honored for their handling of an explosion and fire in a multi-family home that seriously injured three people back in March.

Tewksbury Fire Chief Mike Hazel described the incident, and the actions of his men, this way:

On March 25, 2014, the Tewksbury Fire Department responded to a call for a fire explosion at a multi-family residence. Upon arrival, the crew was faced with three individuals who were severely burned by the blast. They immediately began treatment and arranged for the victims to be transported to the appropriate facilities, leading to the community’s first use of medical helicopters.

With the victims being cared for, the remaining fire officers and firefighters attacked the fire, which had traveled into an unoccupied attic space with very little accessibility.

Once the body of the fire was under control, the fire crews discovered numerous butane gas canisters in the kitchen area, where the explosion occurred. The butane was being used to extract THC from marijuana which caused the fire. This was Massachusetts’ first ‘honey oil’ fire, a process that is extremely dangerous to occupants and responding firefighters.

Gov. Patrick and Sec. Cabral presented 22 awards: two Norman Knight Award for Excellence in Community Service to the Amherst Regional Student Awareness of Fire Education (S.A.F.E.) Program and to a Lunenburg firefighter for his Senior SAFE Program; an Excellence in Leadership Award to a Boston Deputy Fire Chief for a career devoted to improving fire prevention; 10 Individual Awards for Meritorious Conduct to firefighters from Abington, Chelsea, Everett, Lunenburg and New Bedford; two Group Awards for Meritorious Conduct to teams of firefighters from Boston and Tewksbury; five Medals of Valor to individual firefighters from Billerica, Lynn and New Bedford; and two Medals of Honor presented posthumously to the families of Boston Fire Lt. Edward J. Walsh Jr. and Boston Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy.

Past Medal of Honor recipients and their survivors received special recognition from Fire Marshal Coan during this milestone anniversary ceremony for their service and sacrifice. In addition, the State Fire Marshal thanked Governor Patrick who was presiding over his eighth and final “Firefighter of the Year” ceremony for his unwavering support of the Massachusetts fire service, starting as Governor-elect in Danvers, through floods, tornados, significant fires and firefighter funerals. 

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