Life savers

Naugatuck firefighters honored for rescue 

NAUGATUCK — When fire broke out in a two-story house on May 15, Barbara Leary tried to climb to the second floor to help her husband.

But the smoke was just too heavy.

All she could do was get herself outside safely and hope that someone could rescue her husband. Bill Leary, then 59, couldn’t get downstairs because of a medical condition. Minutes later, Barbara Leary’s prayers were answered.

Naugatuck firefighters saved Bill Leary’s life. And for their efforts that day, eight Naugatuck firefighters, one from New Haven and a Naugatuck dispatcher were honored with a unit citation during the annual Naugatuck Fire Department awards ceremony Tuesday night at the Naugatuck Historical Society headquarters on Water Street.

Firefighters explain the rescue like this:

Minutes after the fire broke out, Naugatuck Fire Capt. Vin Healy arrived on scene and found Bill Leary lying unconscious in his bedroom. Healy picked him up and carried him halfway down the stairwell, where Lt. Michael Chatfield helped carry him to the front yard of his house at 44 Culver St.

Chatfield, Chief Ken Hanks and firefighter Tommy Moore worked to resuscitate Bill Leary until emergency medical technicians arrived.

“I honestly didn’t think he was going to make it,” Healy said.

Bill Leary regained consciousness in the ambulance and was treated at a hospital for smoke inhalation; he made a full recovery. The house sustained heavy smoke and fire damage, but the building was saved.

“The positive outcome of this incident fully demonstrates the importance of teamwork on the fire scene,” Deputy Fire Chief Ellen Murray said.

Leary wasn’t the only beneficiary of the firefighters’ work that day.

The family’s 10-year-old boxer-pit bull mix named Kate also was rescued from the fire.

Those who were honored with the unit citation include: Healy, Chatfield, Moore, and firefighters Richard Tavares, Paul Bozzuto, John Lauer, Steve Sousa and Jason Seaman. Dispatcher David Van Wart was also given a unit citation for his work that day.

New Haven firefighter Ryan Doherty, who lives around the corner, helped the Naugatuck Fire Department during the incident. He noticed the fire and jumped in to help. He was given a special award citation on Tuesday.

“He and Tommy Moore never stopped working; it was a tremendous help,” Healy said. “Sometimes you’re lucky. Sometimes you’re good. We were a little bit of both that day.”

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