Junior ROTC cadet earns valor award

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Naugatuck High School student Brandon Pomerenk poses for a photograph outside the JROTC room at the high school Tuesday morning. Pomerenk was awarded the Silver Valor Award after helping rescue a family from a house fire on Maple Hill Road in Naugatuck.  –RA ARCHIVE
Naugatuck High School student Brandon Pomerenk poses for a photograph outside the JROTC room at the high school Tuesday morning. Pomerenk was awarded the Silver Valor Award after helping rescue a family from a house fire on Maple Hill Road in Naugatuck. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Brandon Pomerenk set out to visit a friend on March 25, but he got sidetracked.

On the way, the Naugatuck High School senior and Air Force Junior ROTC cadet helped save six people from a burning house.

For his actions, Pomerenk, 18, was presented with the Silver Valor Award Wednesday from national AFJROTC headquarters.

“I did what any patriotic American would do,” Pomerenk said.

Pomerenk’s father Gary was driving him that day from their Longwood Drive house to his friend’s house in the Cross Street area. As they passed 765 Maple Hill Road, they saw smoke in the road, and then Gary Pomerenk saw flames licking from a corner of the building, above the garage.

Brandon Pomerenk said he called 911 and remembered having passed two police cruisers at the top of the hill. He asked another passing motorist to get the officers.

Brandon Pomerenk then followed his father into the house, where a group of residents were in the living room watching television. Everyone in the house was at least 60 years old, Brandon Pomerenk said.

At first, they did not believe their house was on fire, Brandon Pomerenk said. His father, a former volunteer firefighter in Trumbull, asked how many people were in the house and went to get one sleeping woman out of a bedroom.

One man was in shock and kept asking about his Jeep, said Brandon Pomerenk, who guided the man out. Police recovered the car, Brandon Pomerenk said.

Meanwhile, the fire was spreading quickly through the attic, said Brandon Pomerenk, who felt the heat walking down a hallway but knew not to open any doors.

Pomerenk said he was nervous about being in a burning building, but he and his father stayed on the scene for more than an hour while firefighters extinguished the blaze. No one was injured.

“I had the jitters,” Pomerenk said.

The experience exhausted Pomerenk, but he made it to his friend’s house hours later.

Lt. Col. Valerie Lofland, director of the high school’s AFJROTC program, applied for the award on Pomerenk’s behalf after seeing an article about the fire.

“I thought it was extremely special to have a student doing something heroic like that, and the Air Force values these things,” Lofland said.

No cadet at the high school has won such an award in the 19 years that Master Sgt. Gary Morrone has been deputy director, he said.

After graduation, Brandon Pomerenk plans to attend Lincoln Technical Institute in East Windsor for diesel engineering. He might consider becoming a volunteer firefighter.

“I always wanted to help my community some way,” Pomerenk said.