Borough honors firefighters

Naugatuck Firefighter Gregg Mckirryher is congratulated by Fire Chief Ken Hanks Thursday night during a recognition ceremony at fire headquarters. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — Borough firefighters received some long overdue recognition Thursday night.

Dozens of firefighters, dispatchers, paramedics, family members, friends and borough dignitaries came together at fire headquarters downtown for the Board of Fire Commissioners’ first ever recognition ceremony.

The idea of such an awards ceremony to honor firefighters was first raised some 20 years ago, Fire Chief Ken Hanks explained to the crowd. However, it never came to fruition. When he became chief last year, Hanks said, the ceremony was made a priority and possible with the help of the commission and Deputy Chief Ellen Murray.

Hanks said firefighters shrugged off the notion of being recognized for simply doing their jobs. The typical response from a firefighter when the awards were brought up, Hanks said, was “Why gives us an award. It’s just my job.”

Whether it was coming in to help following Hurricane Irene or the October snowstorm, without asking for pay or helping out at community events, Hanks said borough firefighters always go above and beyond.

“Members of the Naugatuck Fire Department continually do more than what their job description says,” Hanks said.

The evening’s top award was given to Firefighter Jason Alford.

Alford received the Medal of Merit for his role in saving the life of a Naugatuck woman by pulling her out of a house fire on Anderson Street last April. The woman, who was stuck on the third floor of the house, suffered burns but has since recovered.

Eight other firefighters received unit citations for their actions during the fire.

Unit citations were also awarded to eight firefighters for extraditing a man from his car following a severe car accident on Field Street. Members of the department were also recognized for a variety of reasons, including community and military service.

Mayor Robert Mezzo said many people in the community never get the chance to see the fire department in action. For, he said, it is when people are in a most dire situation that they need the fire department.

“During these times of need each and every member of the department is there,” Mezzo said.

The awards are a small way of saying thanks, Mezzo said, but each certificate represents a time when someone in the borough needed help the most.

“At this particular moment … you were the most important person on the face of the Earth to them,” Mezzo told the firefighters in the crowd.

See more photos from the ceremony here.

The following is a list of awards given during the ceremony:

Medal of Merit

Anderson Street Fire Rescue

Firefighter Jason Alford

Unit Citations

Anderson Street Fire

C-3 Second Assistant Chief Paul Russell

Engine 4: Capt. Richard Alfes, Firefighter Thomas Foley, Firefighter Jason Alford.

Engine 3: Lt. Stephen Flaherty, Firefighter Franklin Andrew, Firefighter Stephen Sousa.

Truck 1: Firefighter Thomas Kaminski, Firefighter Gregg Mckirryher.

Field Street Extrication

Engine 3: Lt. Glen Knoll, Firefighter Kevin Grotke, Firefighter Sean Reilly.

Engine 4: Capt. Richard Alfes, Firefighter Thomas Foley, Firefighter Jason Alford.

Rescue 1: Firefighter /Mechanic Anthony Salcito, Firefighter Richard Tavares.

Tropical Storm Irene/Storm Alfred

Dispatcher Dave Porto, Dispatcher Fran Dambowsky, Dispatcher Judith Silkowsky, Dispatcher Vidas Melninkaitis.

Community Service Award

Firefighter /Assistant Mechanic John DeBisschop, Firefighter Todd Gallino, Acting Deputy Fire Marshal William Scanlon, Capt. Dave Seeger

Military Service Award

Dispatcher Fran Dambowsky, Firefighter /Mechanic John Debisschop, Dispatcher Vidas Melninkaitis, Firefighter Stephen Sousa.

NFD Special Award

Brian Moruska, Sibbys Automotive, Paramedic Thomas Higgins.

Commissioners Award

Firefighters were given recognition for Tropical Storm Irene and Storm Alfred. A list of honorees wasn’t available as of this post.

Service Award

Firefighters were recognized for years of service starting at five years and every five years after. A list of honorees wasn’t available as of this post.