LACONIA — Fire Chief Ken Erickson, whose passion for his job is matched only by his pride in his firefighters, honored members of what he called “the fire department every fire department wants to be” at an awards ceremony last evening.
Lt. Jeff Desrosiers and his crew were commended for courageously entering a blazing apartment building at Davis Place in search of occupants trapped by the inferno that claimed one life. Lt. Jay Ellingson and a team of six firefighters, each drawn from different shifts, were commended for their response to a severe traffic accident on Parade Road that took one life and, but for their efficient teamwork, might have taken two more.
Enhancing the significance of commendations, Erickson remarked that he could recall awarding only one medal since 2001 then proceeded to award the Mark E. Miller Medal of Valor to seven firefighters. The medal is named for the revered firefighter who drowned in a training exercise with the dive team he founded and is awarded for saving a life imperiled by water.
On a frigid night in January, Kevin Pierce, Chris Beaudoin, Jason Griffin and Nate Mills were among the firefighters dispatched to Lake Winnisquam where a snowmobiler was reported in the water. In pitch darkness, the four, wearing dry suits and tethered only to one another, crossed 1,400 feet of ice, swam 200 feet of open water, found the snowmobiler using his helmet as a flotation device, and returned him to safety.
In December 2014, a paddler was parted from his kayak when it overturned in the Winnipesaukee River and was clinging to a log as the current swept him downstream. Rick Hewlett, Chris Morgan and Brennan Lorden responded. All three firefighters, at risk to their own lives, managed to rescue the kayaker from the cold water and strong current as Lorden ferried him to shore.
The commendations and medals, Erickson said, exemplify the department’s credo of “selfless service.”
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