Ceremony honors volunteer firefighter training

First Selectman Peter Tesei, at left, congratulates volunteer firefighter T.G. Rawlins for his certification in hazmat operations. Below, Fire Chief Peter Siecienski, at left, offered his thank you to the volunteers and their families as he was joined by District Chief Sean Turpin and District Chief Steve Slusarz. — Ken Borsuk photo

First Selectman Peter Tesei, at left, congratulates volunteer firefighter T.G. Rawlins for his certification in hazmat operations.
— Ken Borsuk photo

Dozens of Greenwich’s volunteer firefighters gathered last week to not only receive a well-deserved thank-you for their hard work but also turn the spotlight on themselves for recognition.

At a special ceremony at Town Hall last Friday, First Selectman Peter Tesei, fire Chief Peter Siecienski and the chiefs of the town’s volunteer fire companies personally congratulated members who completed training this year and received certification. This culminated a week of celebration of the town’s volunteer firefighters, which included a flag raising at Town Hall and Mr. Tesei declaring last week to be Greenwich Volunteer Fire Fighters Week.

“When we think about Greenwich, we think about many things, but volunteerism is at the heart of it,” Mr. Tesei said at Friday’s ceremony, calling it a real pleasure to be there. “Think about what makes you volunteer. I know I’ve volunteered my time for 20 years, and it was my passion to want to give back to the community in service through our government. But in you it’s a passion to help others, particularly in times of extreme need in the fire services. It’s that passion that has brought you here tonight. You have taken the time to become well trained and equipped to provide services to our town that we so desperately need.”

Greenwich’s Fire Department is a combination department of both career firefighters and volunteers. Chief Siecienski gave his own thank-you to the volunteers in his remarks and noted his own experience with training as a young volunteer firefighter when he was voted in to a company and found himself hanging on the back of a fire truck 10 minutes later.

“There was nothing but fear that held you on the back rail of that tail bumper because you certainly didn’t have any training at all,” Chief Siecienski said. “That’s the way it was in the 70s. You came into the fire department and they put you on a truck. You followed a hose line into a burning building to try and get close to the old Navy nozzle because that’s where the clean air was. There was no such thing as breathing apparatus or safety regulations, and the downside was we hurt a lot of firefighters back then.”

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Fire Chief Peter Siecienski, at left, offered his thank you to the volunteers and their families as he was joined by District Chief Sean Turpin and District Chief Steve Slusarz.
— Ken Borsuk photo

Recalling losing two good friends in a building collapse because the department he was in hadn’t studied building collapses, Chief Siecienski compared it to the departments of today with regulated and mandated training. That meant a lot of hours of time being dedicated, but it also saved lives.

“When you’re a volunteer firefighter, especially in Fairfield County, there’s a tremendous amount of time and commitment that goes in to preparing yourself before you get on the back of that fire truck,” Chief Siecienski said. “The certificates that are handed out here represent a tremendous time commitment. This is thousands of hours of training. …  Your contributions are what makes this department great.”

At the ceremony, the volunteers received personal thank-yous from Mr. Tesei and Chief Siecienski as well as certificates noting the training they had received. Volunteer firefighters from all over town received state certification in such critical areas as being able to drive fire trucks, acting as safety officers at the scene of a fire, hazmat operation, medical response, and dive rescue, including into ice. While not every volunteer was able to attend (some had family commitments and others even had assignments that kept them in their firehouses that night), they will still receive their certificates.

Sean Turpin, chief of the town’s Volunteer Hose and Chemical Co., said the ceremony recognized all the training done over the last two years by members of the departments in town, but also aimed to do more.

“We want to mark all the time you and your families put in dedication to the Greenwich Fire Department,” Chief Turpin said.

The Amogerone Volunteer Fire Co. received seven recognitions of achievement, including one for Chief Turpin, who received certification to be a fire officer II as well as an incident safety officer and emergency medical technician. The Cos Cob Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 received 12 recognitions for its members, including one for its chief, John Pugni, who was certified as a fire officer II and an incident safety officer. The Cos Cob Fire Police Patrol got 23 recognitions, including for its chief, Brian Kelly, and for Fire Patrolman Andrew Grecco, who was recently sworn in as a member of the Greenwich Police Department.

Additionally, the Byram Volunteer Fire Co. honored two of its members for recognition. The Glenville Volunteer Fire Co. congratulated nine of its members, including its district chief, Michael Hoha. The Sound Beach Volunteer Fire Co., which includes a dive rescue team, handed out certificates to 11 members, including District Chief Ronald Hawkins. The Round Hill Volunteer Fire Co. also honored its district chief, Rick Strain, for certification in being an incident safety officer and response for hybrid vehicle incidents, along with nine other members of its volunteer corps.

To be a volunteer firefighter and be able to respond to the kinds of incidents an emergency responder could face requires constant education and learning new skills. At the ceremony, the firefighters were urged to be safe and also to continue advancing their knowledge and skills, because “when it’s time to act, the time to prepare has passed.”

But it wasn’t just the firefighters who were congratulated at the ceremony. The sacrifices they make were noted, but their families were also the recipient of thank-yous from the chiefs and town staff there. Many of the firefighters who came brought their families with them and they were given a standing ovation for all they do.

 

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