Firefighter of the Year James "Bo" Butler, right, shakes hands with Chief Kevin MacCaffrie during the Londonderry Fire Department's Community Recognition Ceremony on Saturday evening. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)
In Londonderry, firefighters honor one of their own
Butler, who recently accompanied a World War II veteran on an honor flight mission to Washington, D.C., was named the Londonderry Fire Department's Firefighter of the Year on Saturday evening.
Having previously served in Iraq himself, the young firefighter said he immediately knew he wanted to help upon learning of the New England charity's mission of taking elderly veterans on free trips to the national World War II Memorial.
Butler, who currently serves as vice president of the local firefighters' union and is active in various community causes, was also one of seven staff members to recently assist in the impromptu birth of a Londonderry baby who was born in an ambulance en route to the hospital in December.
During a moving ceremony held at Londonderry High School last weekend, area firefighters paused from their busy work and family lives to celebrate the everyday heroes in their midst.
Around 140 people, including family members and town officials, attended the event. Fire officials hope it will become an annual tradition in Londonderry.
The Recognition Ceremony has been in the works for the past year, Fire Chief Kevin MacCaffrie said, with committee members Lt. Michael McQuillen, Fire Marshal Brian Johnson, Lt. Donald Waldron, and firefighters Christopher Lamy and Butler meeting regularly to finalize plans.
Retired Londonderry Fire Chief Gary Johnson, who many in town know for his humor, served as the evening's keynote speaker.
A 30-year veteran of the local force who'd most recently served as the Pittsfield fire chief, Johnson recalled a career's worth of joys, sorrows and brotherhood.
"Most people wouldn't believe the things you do, the things you've seen," Johnson said.
"None of you think of yourselves as heroes, but heroes you are," he told the firefighters.
MacCaffrie, who will retire this March after a decades-long career in firefighting, reminded the firefighters to focus on what's truly important.
"Technology is a significant component to what we all do, but it's still the dedicated individuals who make the department," he said.
The fire chief recalled days when communications equipment "was basically a one-channel portable radio the size of a brick" and rescue equipment was nothing more than "a rope tied to your belt."
Times have certainly changed, he said, but at the end of the day the ultimate goal remains the same.
"We want to make sure everyone goes home," MacCaffrie said.
During the hour-and-a-half ceremony, dozens of firefighters were recognized for career milestones, with longtime Fire Chaplain Chester Ham honored for his nearly five decades of service.
Paul MacCallum, a regular fixture at the fire station who often lends his photography talents, was recognized as Support Member of the Year.
Bruce Hallowell was commended for his work on EMS projects, while William St. Jean was recognized as the recent class valedictorian in his paramedic course.
Earning Certificates of Merit for last month's emergency childbirth were Battalion Chief Douglas Cardwell, Lt. Michael McQuillen, Lt. David Johnson and firefighters Butler, Peter Devoe, Kevin Barnett and Jonathan Camire.
Earning Certificates of Merit for reviving a local cardiac patient not once but twice last spring were Battalion Chief Darren O'Brien, Lt. Eugene Jastrem, Lt. Jeremy Mague and firefighters Jeff Anderson, Shawn Carrier, Ed Daniels, Scott Geraghty and Christopher Lamy.
The Londonderry Fire Department attended to a total of 3,106 emergency calls last year.