Plans for Athol Firefighter Memorial set for June 26



For The Athol Daily News
Published: 6/13/2022 3:29:30 PM
Modified: 6/13/2022 3:27:14 PM

ATHOL — Area residents are invited — indeed, encouraged — to show their respect and appreciation to firefighters past and present during Athol Fire Department’s annual Firefighter Memorial on Sunday, June 26. The event will run from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Uptown Fire Station, 2251 Main St.

A news release from the department reads, “Chief Joseph Guarnera and the Athol Fire Department will be joined by state Sen. Anne Gobi, state Rep. Susannah Whipps, Athol Town Manager Shaun Suhoski, and the Athol Board of Selectmen …”

Among those being recognized during the event is Maddison Rose Coburn, who has been named “Young Hero” by the department. On Sept. 19, 2020, says the release, “Then 12-year-old Maddison … was driving with her mother when she saw what she thought were flames in the second-floor window of a house. She alerted her mother who in turn drove to the home where she heard the smoke detector going off and called 911.”

It turns out fire had broken out in an unoccupied apartment. Maddison’s quick response is credited with getting fire crews to the scene, where the fire was quickly extinguished. Property damage was limited, and no injuries were reported.

Also being honored are four members of the Athol Fire Department who responded to an early morning fuel tanker rollover at the intersection of Hapgood and Fletcher streets on Dec. 22, 2021. The rollover dumped some 6,000 gallons of diesel fuel into Mill Brook, a tributary of the Millers River.

Those to receive commendations for their actions include Capt. Andy Soltysik and firefighters Bruce Dubrule, Paco Carra and Derek Perry.

“The rollover was over a culvert,” Guarnera told the Athol Daily News, “and the driver was trapped in the vehicle, upside down and pinned. Those firefighters were the ones who actually extricated the driver from the tractor, even though it was hanging in a very precarious manner over the culvert, basically upside down with 10,000 to 13,000 gallons of fuel in it.

“They still did their job and worked get this guy out of his seat — successfully — and he was later transported to UMass/Medical trauma center. There were some serious injuries, but they successfully extricated him from the vehicle. It was in a very, very compromising position for them and for the driver. Despite the danger, they did their work like they’re supposed to and got him out of that vehicle.”

Guarnera said his firefighters were ready to respond to the challenging predicament.

“Everything comes down to training,” he said. “We train continually, and we’ve trained on our extrication tools, and we’ve trained on the use of those tools in compromising positions. They were able to gain access to a vehicle that was in a really bad way — dented, pushed in, on its side. Medically, they’re trained very well and they knew what to look out for, how to maneuver the driver to get him out of the vehicle without causing any further harm.

“It’s combination of training, working as a team, knowing the job each of them has to do to make the mission successful. That all came into play.”

The chief said the demonstration of public support and respect for his firefighters is very much appreciated and helps to keep motivation at its highest level.

“It’s a job like no other,” he continued. “Police and fire, they’re unique jobs. And to be able to have the public together and to understand what we do is important. And we appreciate the pubic for their support for what we do.

“It’s a somber event, yet it’s a happy event. To me, personally, the reason I started this a few years ago — when I first came here — we did it where I used to work, and we looked forward to it every year. It’s a way to memorialize those firefighters who have passed, as well as those who are still on the job.

“It’s one of those jobs, like a police officer, where you go to work, and you don’t know if that’s your last day at work. You never know what is going to happen that day, or what you’re going to respond to. It’s a very, very dangerous job.”

Also receiving recognition at the memorial will be Capt. Kevin Kaczmarczyk, Central Mass EMS Paramedic of the Year. The person to receive the title of Athol Firefighter of the Year 2022 has not yet been determined.

Those receiving Massachusetts Department of Fire Services Career Service Awards are: Chief Joseph Guarnera (25 years); Firefighter Chad Girard (10 years); Firefighter Travis Bailey (10 years); and, Firefighter Adam Harris (5 years).

Special recognition certificates will be presented to: Randy’s Truck and Equipment Repair and to the Orange, Petersham, Phillipston and Royalston Fire Departments.

Dr. Adam Darnobid of Athol Hospital will be given Honorary Athol Firefighter Recognition.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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