Town celebrates volunteer firefighters

First Selectman Peter Tesei, at right, presents the proclamation declaring it to be Greenwich Volunteer Fire Fighters Week to John Pugni, president of the town’s Volunteer Chiefs Association. — Ken Borsuk photo

First Selectman Peter Tesei, at right, presents the proclamation declaring it to be Greenwich Volunteer Fire Fighters Week to John Pugni, president of the town’s Volunteer Chiefs Association.
— Ken Borsuk photo

The town of Greenwich has a long history of volunteer service, and nowhere is that more true than in the men and women who serve in the town’s volunteer fire departments.

That was the message of a special ceremony outside Town Hall last Sunday morning attended by more than a dozen volunteer firefighters as First Selectman Peter Tesei declared Oct. 13-19 to be Greenwich Volunteer Fire Fighters Week. In addition to the formal proclamation, Mr. Tesei also offered a “thank-you” to the volunteers.

“Thank you for all the hours of service you provide to our residents,” Mr. Tesei said. “Thank you for the extra effort to work with the town to provide support in times of need and through training people to take preventative measures to protect themselves and their families. This does not go unnoticed.”

Mr. Tesei was joined at the ceremony by Selectman David Theis, and he said the sentiments he expressed were shared by “everyone in town government.” Greenwich has a combined fire department of both career and volunteer firefighters and Mr. Tesei praised the volunteers for “providing essential services to the citizens of Greenwich in their hours of need.”

“The dedicated men and women of the volunteer corps continue to risk life and limb and leave their homes and their families at all hours of the day and night to provide protection for all of our citizens,” Mr. Tesei said, calling upon residents to “recognize and pay tribute” to them.

John Pugni, president of the Volunteer Chiefs Association in town as well as chief of the Cos Cob Volunteer Fire Co., told the Post that this was a very meaningful salute from the town.

“It’s nice,” Chief Pugni said. “It makes you feel proud of your accomplishments and all your education and training. It’s a great feeling to get something back for giving something, even if it’s just a simple thank-you. It means a lot to every one of us.”

Chief Pugni admitted that it can be easy for people in town to take the contributions of volunteers for granted.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t realize that it’s a combination department and that there are a lot of individuals who dedicate themselves to providing this service as volunteers,” Chief Pugni said. “And it’s not just the individuals who are doing this. Their families are also putting in because they’re away from their wives and their husbands and their kids. It’s tough in a lot of ways but it’s very rewarding. It makes you feel good.”

At the Sunday morning ceremony, Vincent Ferarro and Paul Darmochwal of the Glenville Volunteer Fire Co. Inc. raised the flag outside Town Hall. This is a company with which Greenwich Chief of Police James Heavey is well acquainted, since he is a member himself, having been a volunteer firefighter for decades in town and a former chief of the company.

Chief Heavey, who was among the many firefighters in full ceremonial uniform on Sunday, told the Post that a week like this is needed to make sure people remember just how much the volunteers do in Greenwich.

“It’s important to recognize that the volunteers are a force multiplier,” Chief Heavey said. “We have all these trained volunteers living in town, so when there’s an emergency, they’re there to help. We have a huge tradition of this in town. We’ve had volunteers serving for more than 125 years. [Last Sunday] Glenville held its 110th anniversary. It’s one week a year that we have this proclamation, but it’s very important to get people aware. Some people in town don’t even know that we’re part of the Greenwich Fire Department and it’s a great tradition. You see legacies in the departments of families like the Wilsons and the Slusarzs doing this for generations.”

The flag raising was followed by a memorial wreath being laid at the ceremonial bell marking volunteer firefighter service in town at the intersection of Mason Street and Fawcett Place. Amogerone Fire Co. No. 1 Inc. Chief Steven Slusarz and Chief Sean Turpin, head of the town’s Volunteer Hose and Chemical Co., placed the wreath and asked for a moment of silence for Charles LaMonica and Dominic Sarica, two longtime volunteer firefighters who had passed away during the past year.

This week will culminate with a special volunteer Rcecognition ceremony that will be held tomorrow, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall Meeting Room. The ceremony, which is scheduled to run about two hours, is designed to thank all the town’s volunteer firefighters and recognize the ones who have gotten state certification and advanced training.


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