Governor Maura Healey on Tuesday presented Hopkinton Fire Department members with a group citation for meritorious service at the 34th annual Firefighter of the Year Awards ceremony at Mechanic’s Hall in Worcester.
The event honored firefighters throughout the state who displayed bravery and performed heroic and often lifesaving events in the line of duty. Healey joined Public Safety Secretary Terrence M. Reidy and State Fire Marshal Jon M. Davine during the presentation of awards, while WCVB’s Doug Meehan emceed the event.
Interim Hopkinton Fire Chief Gary Daugherty Jr. was serving as deputy chief during an Easter morning fire where an elderly couple and their dog died. The cause of the fire appeared accidental in nature. Daugherty, Lt. John Sheridan and firefighters Jim Gosselin, Maxwell Hoadley, Douglas R. Lewis III and Jarrod Taranto were honored along with Ashland Fire Department Lt. Anthony Duca for their rescue efforts during the early morning two-alarm blaze, receiving one of 10 group citations for meritorious conduct from the governor.
Shortly after 1:10 a.m. on April 9, the HFD responded to Hayward Street for a report of a structure fire. The first crews on scene found a heavy fire but no activated smoke alarms. Bystanders reported that two people were in the building.
While firefighters attacked the fire from the outside, Sheridan ordered a second alarm, requested mutual aid, and shifted his focus to rescuing the occupants. Daugherty arrived moments later. The pair tried to get inside the house, only to find one entrance winterized and blocked by furniture.
Once they made entry, they began a search and quickly located and extricated an adult male, later identified as homeowner Don MacNeill. They removed him from the building and transferred his care to the crews outside. Daugherty and Sheridan then returned to the building to search for the second person, Judith MacNeill, and found her in a rear bedroom.
During a very challenging patient extrication through an interior hallway dense with smoke, Duca helped remove her. The couple was taken to Milford Regional Medical Center. While Don MacNeill succumbed to his injuries soon afterward, the crew was able to keep Judith alive “long enough for her family members to say goodbye,” according to a press release.
“Each year, the Firefighter of the Year Awards recognize acts of bravery, heroism and service that are truly remarkable — even by the remarkable standards set by Massachusetts firefighters,” said Healey in a statement. “From structure fires to rushing waters, this year’s recipients defied grave danger to protect lives and preserve property. It’s an honor to celebrate them as individuals and teams. They represent the very finest in a tradition of helping others in times of danger and crisis.”
At the ceremony, Healey, Reidy and Davine presented seven medals of valor, 12 individual citations for meritorious conduct, 10 group citations for meritorious conduct, two Stephen D. Coan Fire Marshal’s Awards, and one Norman Knight Award for Excellence in Community Service to members of 22 Massachusetts fire departments. In total, 130 firefighters were recognized.
“The firefighters we recognize today used every physical, mental and technical skill available to them under some of the most extreme conditions imaginable,” said Davine. “They relied on their training, their teamwork, and their determination to get the job done. It’s my great honor to thank them for their service to the Commonwealth and their communities, and to congratulate them on this well-deserved recognition.”