Fire & Rescue crews adjust to serving in pandemic

Board of Directors has weekend virtual meeting, honoring members with resolution and awards; 50th celebration plans set for fall

April 1, 2020
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer

smfr logoThe student volunteers and leaders of Saint Michael’s Fire and Rescue are meeting the “significant test” of the COVID-19 pandemic effectively and with determined professionalism, boosted by strong community support, reported a student member to the SMFR Board of Directors during a Zoom version of its regularly scheduled meeting this past weekend.

The virtual meeting happened on a weekend that was to have marked the 50th Anniversary celebration of the organization before the pandemic changed everything. Instead, the Board passed a resolution recognizing the commitment and dedication of current members during this difficult time.

smfr training

Saint Michael’s Fire and Rescue members undergo training in this file photo.

Fire 1st Lieutenant, Max Zwiener ’21, a history major from Saunderstown, RI, shared with the board how he and fellow members have been handling the situation: “It was within a week’s time that ordinary life on Saint Michael’s campus ceased, and the new normal of uncertain days and online classes began. Our members have adapted in the most impressive manner,” Zwiener emailed to the board. “The dawn of online classes created anomalies in the schedule, and the need for crew consistency to reduce potential exposures affected how the department organized crews.”

Among the subsequent changes is that the Rescue Unit has transitioned into 24 hour shifts with three members per shift, he said. “There are currently 21 members still on campus so they are able to get a few days off in between their scheduled duty.” The Fire Unit has made similar changes and with 20 firefighters on campus, “we are able to host three companies that spend 24 hours on duty and then 48 hours off duty. At the start of every shift members are logging their temperatures and noting if they have any signs and symptoms of COVID 19 as another preventative measure.”

“These scheduling changes have made for an easier transition into online learning and have kept our dedicated volunteers in high spirits,” Zwiener said. “Without the support of the Administration of Saint Michael’s College, Residence Life, and Sodexo who keep campus services in operation, we would not be able to institute these changes. “

He said the recent pandemic has “shown the generosity of the community harbored under the roof of the Sutton Fire Station. Nearly every day, members of the local community and members of our vast network of alumni knock on our door, asking to support our organization.”

Earlier in the year, this just-past Saturday, March 28 had been designated for the annual Fire & Rescue banquet that this year would have celebrated “SMFR’s 50 years of service, accomplishment and community,” but due to the pandemic, “it passed without the highly anticipated annual banquet” even more anticipated in such a milestone year, Zwiener reported. Each year the banquet is occasion for number of important events including the presentation of awards, the recognition of outstanding service, and the swearing in of new officers. Named this year’s Rescuer of the Year was Amelia Lamberty ’20, a biology major from Moca, Puerto Rico, while Firefighter of the Year was Alec Guzauckas ’20, an information systems major from Kensington, CT.

smfr on call

Saint Michael’s Fire and Rescue equipment on call at a local incident in this file photo.

Fire & Rescue leaders said the major event for the 50th anniversary celebration has been tentatively rescheduled for the fall. “SMFR still wanted to continue these traditions, especially for our seniors who will be experiencing an unusual final semester of their undergraduate degree,” Zwiener said.

However, over the weekend, “The combination of technological aptitude and responsive alumni allowed us to host a remote ceremony, where we recognized our new officers, as well as the accomplished members who earned the honors of being firefighter and rescuer of the 2019-2020 year,” he said. “The members of Saint Michael’s Fire and Rescue would like to sincerely thank everyone for their relentless support over the previous weeks and with the weeks to come”

Said SMFR Board member Fr. Ray Doherty, S.S.E ’51, “Fire and Rescue is a great organization, an inspiration to all of us at Saint Michael’s and a credit to the College. We pray for the well-being of the members during this exceptionally difficult time for first responders and medical personnel.”

Fire Chief Erik Haversang ’11 said it was gratifying that many people have been asking how they can help SMFR during this time. Those who would like to to make a donation can contact the unit chiefs (jkeating@smcvt.edu or ehaversang@smcvt.edu) to find out how to help in the most effective way.

“We thank everyone who has reached out, donated food, money, and offered their well wishes over the past few weeks,” Haversang said.

smfr group shot

Saint Michael’s Fire Rescue in a recent group shot of both full crews together outside the Sutton Firehouse.

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