Medal of Valor

I spent a lot of time tonight once again describing the Oct. 10, 2010 fire that I covered on Bridge Street, but at least here for the blog, I’d just like to suggest that everyone go back and read what I wrote about the fire that morning, and watch the videos that I  recorded.

I think they speak for themselves.

Today Gov. Deval Patrick gave five Lowell firefighters the Medal of Valor from the Department of Fire Services for their actions at that fire. I can’t imagine a more deserved award.

Capt. Brett Dowling, Lt. Jason Strunk, Firefighter John Diaz, Firefighter Roberto Maldonado, and Firefighter Donald Milinazzo were all honored today at the Department of Fire Services Firefighter of the Year Awards in Worcester.

This photo is by Charles Krupa, of the Associated Press. I didn’t want to risk shooting this event own my own.

I spoke to everyone but Milinazzo after the ceremony, and a few things emerged.

These guys are all still very thoughtful of the victims of this fire. Andrew Brooks, 23, and Louis Souleotis, 47, were both killed.

“It’s bittersweet to get an award like this knowing that a young man lost his life. We met his family members and we’ve seen the pain they went through,” Strunk said. “We’re honored by the awards, but we understand that there’s still a family behind it that suffered a big loss.”

This fire was tough on these guys. Not just physically, while they were nearly killed, but emotionally, once they were safe. I think it says a lot about their character that they remain humble after a fire like this.

“I was just doing my job,” said Diaz.

I still remember standing on Bridge Street that morning freaking out a little because I became so confident that not all of these guys would survive. I’ve never doubted, for a second, that these men did everything they possibly could. If they had done more, I would have written about their deaths too.

All of these guys were also very thankful for their colleagues.

“We couldn’t have done anything we did without the support of everyone who was working that night,” Crowley said.

Finally, Strunk mentioned that some of the first engines that should have gotten to this fire were out of service that night. After the fire, the union approached the city council about that.

Fire engines are rotated out of service each day to save the city overtime costs. In the wake of this fire, the city limited the number of engines that can be out of service to two.

Lt. Strunk said he hopes the recognition he and his colleagues received will remind the city that these closures happen.

Strunk doesn’t know, and said he can’t know, whether having those engines in service that night could have led to more lives being saved, but he said he hopes that people remember that cuts to areas like public safety truly can have consequences.

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One response to “Medal of Valor

  1. I don’t think anybody will forget this fire for a very long time- the LFD,LPD ,EMT’s Red Cross,National Grid,and State Fire Marshal’s Office did an excellent job under extremely difficult circumstances and conditions. My sincere hope is that our city can return to full coverage for essential public-safety services; our lives depend on it!

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