Edgartown firefighters honor their own

From left: Chuck Cummens, assistant chief Scott Ellis, Barbara Morgan, chief Peter Shemeth, deputy chief Alex Schaeffer, and Brenden Cooney. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Edgartown emergency responders gathered Monday at the newly renovated Edgartown Fire Museum for the Edgartown Firefighters/EMS Award dinner. Past generations of Edgartown firefighters, some whose grandchildren would be honored this evening, were present in the large black-and-white photos displayed on the walls and in the gleaming new showcases, surrounded by the gear of days past, some of which dates back to 1836.

“We wanted to recognize people, take stock of the work we do and make it a celebration,” Edgartown Deputy Chief/Ambulance Coordinator Alex Schaeffer said. “These folks see a lot of things, and it can weigh on you. When you do this on a small Island, you inevitably see people you know.” Mr. Schaeffer, who was on duty during both life-saving rescues being honored Monday evening, said he was on a call last week where the victim was someone he knew well. He was unable to save the man.

But this was a night to celebrate the victories. It was a high-spirited affair, punctuated with frequent laughter and the occasional squawk of a walkie talkie.

“If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here,” Barbara Morgan of Edgartown, said to the assembled crews. Ms. Morgan suffered a massive heart attack on October 16. The last thing she remembered was starting down the stairs in her house on Fuller street. “I don’t remember much, but I was told I died twice. These people saved me,” she said. “Words can’t describe how I feel. I got to see my oldest son’s wedding. It was an amazing Christmas.”

For their actions in Ms. Morgan’s rescue, Brenden Cooney and Chuck Cummens received the “Cardiac Care” award, which they also accepted on behalf of EMTs Krystle Rose, who was on a 911 call, and Matthew Millman, who was his honeymoon.

In the course of resuscitating Ms. Morgan, the crew used defibrillation paddles and advanced monitoring equipment that had just been obtained for all the Island ambulance services with a $476,425 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), for which Edgartown was the lead department.

The “Excellence in Trauma Management” award was earned by Micah Agnoli, Michael Klimek, Kate Conde, and Jake Sylvia for their rescue of William Cress, a seasonal resident who was seriously injured when he was hit and pinned under a truck while riding his bicycle on Katama Road on July 23.

The first responders extricated Mr. Cress and kept him alive until he arrived at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, where he was airlifted off Island.

Mr. Cress had intended to attend the awards dinner and he’d arranged for a friend to fly him in from Boston, but the forecast of heavy fog and severe icing conditions kept him grounded in America.

In an email, read aloud by deputy chief Schaeffer, Mr. Cress wrote, “I am a blessed man to have been rescued by your department’s men and women. I will never forget their professionalism. We are privileged to be a part of an Island community that values your work and even more fortunate to have devoted individuals residing on Martha’s Vineyard who give their time and energies to save people like me. I can never thank you enough.”

Marlon Garcia earned the “Volunteer Workhorse Award” for the volunteer who had the most patient contacts in 2013. After the ceremony Mr. Garcia was asked how many patients he’d treated. “Not that much,” he said, modestly. “Maybe 100, 125.”

Kyle Carter earned the “Engineers Award,” for exemplary work on equipment maintenance.

James Dropick earned the “Attendance Commendation” for attending the most training sessions.

Andrew Kelly earned the “Torrent Award,” named after one of the two engines used by the Edgartown fire department in 1836, and given for fast and sound thinking in difficult circumstances, which he demonstrated during the rescue of Mr. Cress.

Mr. Kelly then presented Jake Sylvia with an award for his work as President of the Edgartown Fireman’s Association for the past two years. “And I think it’s great we sucked him in for two more,” said Mr. Kelly, himself a former president. The award for Mr. Sylvia was a striking black-and-white photo — a silhouette of a firefighter in action, framed by icicles. The picture was taken at a fire on January 26, 1983. The firefighter in the photo is Chief Albert Sylvia, Mr. Sylvia’s grandfather.

The ceremony ended with a few words from Edgartown Fire Chief Peter Shemeth. “I wanted to say thanks for all the times you went to false alarms at 2 am on a cold night, for all the training and the CPR work. You put so much time and effort into being ready for whatever happens, and tonight you see the fruits of your labor,” he said, his voice quavering. “We have someone here with us tonight, that we wouldn’t have with us any other way. It’s such a great feeling to be a member of a group of people who put so much time and effort into taking care of the residents of this town.”