Members Honored at Massachusetts Firefighighter of the Year Awards
Updated On: Jan 04, 2008
Local firefighters honored in Boston
By Maria Papadopoulos, Enterprise staff writer
BROCKTON— The fire that earned Lt. Kevin Galligan a Medal of Honor Wednesday will be seared in his memory for a long time.
“We couldn't see them at all. We could barely tell if we had a wrist or an ankle in our hands,” Galligan, 29, said of the two unconscious women he and his colleague, Lt. Daniel Santry, pulled in complete darkness from a third-floor apartment during a four-alarm blaze in Brockton on July 6, 2006.
One of the women, also the mother of an infant Galligan had rescued from a third-floor window during the blaze, later died of her injuries.
That “ended up being a terrible thing for us,” Galligan said, somberly.
He and Santry were among several firefighters from Brockton, Whitman and Plymouth honored for their heroism Wednesday at the 18th annual “Firefighter of the Year” Awards in Faneuil Hall in Boston.
Galligan, the son of Brockton Fire Chief Kenneth Galligan, and a Boston firefighter received the top award, the Medal of Honor.
“Obviously, it's a proud moment,” the fire chief said Wednesday of his son's honor.
Other Brockton firefighters were honored for their response to the Montello Street blaze.
Santry and Firefighter George Eonas, who joined Galligan in rescuing victims from the third floor, both received the Medal of Valor.
Capt. Arthur Gay and firefighters Leonard Widdis, Brian Piantoni and James Miceli received a group award for meritorious conduct.
“I am very proud of the actions by everybody who was involved in that fire,” Fire Chief Kenneth Galligan said.
One local firefighter was also honored for his military service in Iraq.
Whitman call firefighter Paul Skarinka received a “Patriot's Award” Wednesday.
Skarinka, an Army veteran who earlier received a Purple Heart, has had several surgeries for injuries he sustained after a rocket-propelled grenade struck his unit in Iraq.
The Plymouth Fire Department was also recognized for its rescue of a man from a third floor residence at 122 Drew Road, Plymouth, on Dec. 18, 2006.
Plymouth firefighters receiving honors included Lt. Montgomery Gray, Lt. Gregory Kane, Michael Morrill, Deputy Chief Marin Enos, Battalion Chief Stanley Eldridge, Brian Russo, Nathan Torrance, Steve Williamson, Michael Balonis, Robert Ferrari, Lt. Jeffrey Carter, Donald DeCost, Lt. Douglas Pigeon, Edward Delano, Dale Melanson and Mark Milroy.
In the Brockton fire, Lt. Kevin Galligan said he and his colleagues worked together and relied on their training to get through the horrific blaze.
“The experience that we went through was extremely taxing, both mentally and physically,” said Galligan, who has worked as a firefighter for eight years.
When rescue crews arrived at the scene, Galligan said he saw a grandmother dangling an infant while screaming for help from a third floor window.
Seven other people had already jumped from the second floor apartment, he said.
Galligan went up a ladder to retrieve the infant, and went back for the grandmother, who then told firefighters two more people were stuck inside the apartment.
Galligan and Santry donned breathing apparatus and went inside. They could not see anything but felt around the apartment for victims.
“The floor below me was extremely hot,” said Galligan, of flames engulfing the second floor.
The two firefighters found one woman unconscious, and passed her out a window to other firefighters on a ladder.
But before they could remove the last victim, Galligan and Santry ran out of air.
They jumped from the window onto the ladder, and directed Eonas to go inside and find the woman, which he then passed to other firefighters on the ladder.
When asked about receiving the top honor for a firefighter, Galligan responded humbly.
“I just happened to be the guy who was working on a certain truck that night,” Galligan said. “Any other firefighter would have been in the same position.”