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From left, Lawrence firefighters Juan “Manny” Gonzalez, Luis Severino, Chief Brian Moriarty, Capt. Eric Zahn and Jeffrey Young at the statewide awards ceremony Friday. Also honored but not pictured was Lt. Ryan Lavallee.

LAWRENCE — Five Lawrence firefighters were recognized at a statewide awards ceremony for heroism, quick thinking and a commitment to community service.

State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey, Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Public Safety Secretary Terrence Reidy recognized the firefighters, among dozens of others, at a ceremony Friday at Mechanic’s Hall in Worcester.

“Over and over again, we see firefighters putting themselves in harm’s way or even life-threatening danger to rescue strangers from harm,” Baker said. “These awards reflect selfless acts of courage, compassion, and service by truly remarkable public servants.”

Ostroskey said the common theme in the awards is “to protect vulnerable people from harm.”

“It may be pulling a trapped occupant through the third-floor window of a burning home. It may be protecting a distraught person on the ledge of a building. It may be providing education, services, and crisis resources in their communities. And it may be protecting firefighters from the grave threat that occupational cancer poses to their health and safety. Regardless of the circumstances, each of them is a true hero,” he said.

The Norman Knight Award for Excellence in Community Service was bestowed on Firefighter Juan “Manny” Gonzalez, the co-founder of the non-profit Heal Lawrence.

Heal Lawrence helps fire and disaster victims, providing them with clothes, food, housing and personal care items. In April, when 73 residents were displaced from their homes after a large building fire, Heal Lawrence was able to partner with city and state resources and provide lodging free of charge for victims for five days, according to information released by Ostroskey on the awards.

“Having seen firsthand the devastation that fires can cause, Firefighter Gonzalez frequently appears on a local radio show to speak about fire prevention, fire safety and the importance of renter’s insurance. He even helps residents complete the renter’s insurance application. His ability to communicate in English and Spanish has been invaluable in reaching a wide range of Lawrence’s Latino population. He is a source of comfort, knowledge, assistance, and resources for his community. In the words of Chief Brian Moriarty, ‘This guy is Lawrence,’” according to the awards information.

Capt. Eric Zahn was honored with the Individual Citation for Meritorious Conduct for live-saving action in June on Interstate 495 when a car went into the guardrail and off the road.

Zahn was first on the scene and a man was at the wheel, bleeding from his head and unconscious, unresponsive, with no pulse and not breathing.

“Moments later, a good Samaritan stopped to assist, and together they removed the passenger from the car. They performed CPR on the patient until additional firefighters and paramedics arrived, defibrillated him, and continued resuscitation efforts. The man was transported to Lawrence General Hospital where he was alert upon arrival. Capt. Zahn’s instinct to help and effective early action made him the first link in the chain of actions that saved the patient’s life,” according to the awards’ information.

A trio of Lawrence firefighters from Ladder 4, Lt. Ryan Lavallee and Firefighters Luis Severino and Jeffrey Young, earned the Group Citation for Meritorious Conduct.

The group responded to an early-morning call on Christmas Eve 2021 to a shed near the Falls Bridge. They found smoke coming from the small utility building.

“Ladder 4 forced the metal commercial door from the jamb but soon realized it was chained and padlocked from the other side. This could only mean one thing – someone was inside, and they were in danger,” according to the awards information.

The firefighters immediately grabbed a set of bolt cutters and snapped the chain. They entered to find a heavily involved room with fire and heavy smoke over their heads. Inside, they discovered a man in his 80s who was unconscious and slumped over debris. They dragged him out to safety, where they administered oxygen and cardiopulmonary resuscitation until he regained consciousness, officials said.

“Firefighters later learned that the man was homeless and had lit a candle in this makeshift shelter. Given the locked door and his condition on their arrival, there is no question that he would have lost his life if not for their rapid action,” according to the awards information.

The Firefighter of the Year Awards have grown from a simple ceremony in 1990 to the premier annual event for the Massachusetts fire service, honoring truly remarkable acts of courage, service, and sacrifice by the Commonwealth’s firefighters and recognizing their invaluable contributions to the communities they serve, Ostroskey said.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.

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