WORCESTER — Firefighters from Andover, North Andover and Lawrence were honored Tuesday for their roles in the Merrimack Valley gas disaster Sept. 13, 2018.
The Stephen D. Coan Fire Marshal Award was presented to the entire departments for their response to the gas explosions and their role in the long recovery, according to State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey.
“The civilian and first responders on these three departments showed tremendous leadership, professionalism, and care for their communities during the first chaotic hours of the Merrimack Valley gas explosion and during the months of recovery. ... Many were personally affected by the situation, yet every day protected their fellow residents," Ostroskey said.
The 30th annual Firefighter of the Year awards ceremony was held at Mechanic's Hall in Worcester.
During the disaster, Leonel Rondon, 18, of Lawrence was killed, dozens injured and damage was estimated at $1 billion after over-pressurization of gas lines resulted in explosions and fires throughout the region.
Three firefighters and 19 civilians were hurt, 50,000 people were forced to evacuate and the severity of the damage depended on the age of appliances people had. Five homes were destroyed and 131 structures damaged, according to findings by the National Transportation Safety Board.
On Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Gov. Karyn Polito, and other state officials joined Ostroskey at the awards ceremony.
Also honored were Worcester firefighter Christopher Roy, who gave his life in the line of duty last year, along with firefighters from 14 Massachusetts fire departments who undertook heroic acts of bravery and public service during 2018.
The Medal of Honor award was presented posthumously to Roy. Roy died battling a five-alarm fire on Lowell Street in the early morning hours of Dec. 9, 2018.
Officials also recognized Worcester Fire Lt. Jason Menard, who died in the line of duty Nov. 13 while fighting a house fire on Stockholm Street.
“The Commonwealth’s first responders put themselves in harm’s way each day, and these awards provide an opportunity to recognize their bravery and sacrifice. This year, our administration is proud to honor Christopher Roy, his family, and his legacy of heroism and sacrifice,” Baker said. “Massachusetts cities and towns are safer places to live, work and raise a family because of the men and women like him, who selflessly answer the call knowing the danger that may await them.”
Polito said, “It is our privilege to recognize the heroes who take such remarkable action to protect our communities. Our administration also wants to thank their families, who make sacrifices of their own as their loved ones keep us safe.”
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.