Mass. first responders receive awards for high-profile responses
The award winners were honored for courage while responding to the shooting of K-9 Sgt. Sean Gannon and the rescue of a woman who broke through the ice of a pond
By Geoff Spillane
Cape Cod Times
WORCESTER, Mass. — Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills firefighters received major honors Tuesday for the January rescue of a woman from a frozen pond and the department's response to the shooting of a Yarmouth police sergeant.
Gov. Charlie Baker presented Citation for Meritorious Conduct awards to 28 members of the department during the Massachusetts Firefighter of the Year Awards ceremony, with three of them receiving prestigious Medal of Valor awards for heroism.
The award winners were honored for bravery and courage while responding to the two high-profile incidents in Marstons Mills earlier this year: the fatal shooting of Yarmouth K-9 Sgt. Sean Gannon in April and the daring rescue of a woman who broke through the ice at Pattys Pond in January.
Nearly 1,000 people attended the 90-minute, often emotional, ceremony at historic Mechanics Hall honoring firefighters from throughout the Bay State.
"I'm very proud of everyone," said COMM Fire Chief Michael Winn. "Our firefighters could not have shown more bravery during these incidents. These are among the most heroic acts I've seen in my 28 years working in firefighting in Massachusetts."
Seventeen members of the department's "Group 1" were honored for the response to the Gannon shooting.
"Lt. (Jason) Davern arrived first and faced a chaotic, still unfolding scene," according to the event program. "Yarmouth Sergeant Gannon and his dog, Nero, had both been shot, and were still in the house with the suspect. With no protective ballistic gear and limited EMS equipment, Lt. Davern entered the home protected by a Barnstable police officer. He tried but was unable to remove Sergeant Gannon from the house alone. When Lt. (Enrique) Arrascue arrived on the ambulance, together they removed the officer from the so-called 'hot zone' – while the suspect was still in the house with his whereabouts unknown."
For their efforts that day, Arrascue and Davern were awarded the Medal of Valor for bravery, as the audience rose to a standing ovation.
"It's a great honor for a day I'll never forget," said Davern. "I went to work and all hell broke loose. Sean was a friend of mine, and when I learned he was shot, I almost froze. But knew I had to get in there and do something. We did what we could."
COMM fire Capt. Thomas Burchell was the first to arrive at icy Pattys Pond on Jan. 27 after reports of a woman 100 yards from shore who was panicking and struggling to stay afloat. Burchell quickly put on a survival suit, and with only a Barnstable police officer holding a rope, he went out onto the ice – falling through and getting up dozens of times – eventually reaching the woman. When other members of the department's "Group 4" arrived, they helped Burchell keep the woman's head above water and get her to shore. She was taken to Cape Cod Hospital and survived the ordeal.
All members of the department's "Group 4" received a Meritorious Conduct award for technical rescue for their efforts, with Burchell also receiving a Medal of Valor, to another standing ovation from the crowd.
More than 40 COMM firefighters, employees and family members traveled by bus to Worcester, including Carly McGonigle, whose husband, John, was a member of the award-winning team that responded to the Pattys Pond incident.
"He's very humble about it," she said. "Many of them felt like they don't deserve it (the awards), but they do. They're risking their lives to save lives."
COMM was the only department in the state to win two Citations for Meritorious Conduct at this year's ceremony.
"They do not give a second thought to risking their lives," said state Rep. William Crocker, R-Centerville, who attended the event. "They need to be recognized and rewarded."
Other departments receiving honors during the ceremony included Abington, Ayer, Chicopee, Fall River, Revere, Wilbraham and Worcester.
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