Our Person of the Week is a firefighter.
A Montville, Mohegan, Chesterfield, or Oakdale firefighter. Or even our neighbor firefighters; Gardner Lake, Colchester, Salem, Bozrah. We could pick just about any one of them; male, female, young, old, experienced, novice. What they all have in common is simple. It’s about bravery, camaraderie, and selfless valor.
Oakdale Fire Chief Gary Murphy summed it up: “It doesn’t matter what department; mine or any other in town; it’s not a job for everybody. It takes a special person to run in to a burning building when everyone else is running out. A guy in an air mask, pack, and tools – they don’t ask questions. They just do it. “
Wednesday night, Murphy held his breath waiting along with scores of other firefighters. Four guys were inside the burning house on Old Colchester Road searching for anyone that might have been trapped when the evacuation order was issued; a special tone and blaring horns announcing the alert: get out.
“They’d advanced into the (house). The smoke, the intense thick smoke the color…the fire was rapidly increasing and intensifying,” Murphy explained the day after. “In my 28 years as fire chief two times I felt I was going to lose a firefighter. Last night was one of them.”
“We weren’t getting any response. The horns were (blaring) and we were yelling and smoke a flames were shooting out the front door. I thought those guys were trapped in there.”
So when the four men began falling, stumbling out the front door, his heart at once leapt and sank: “The relief I felt. I can’t describe it. So when I think, ‘somebody set this fire,’ I’m angry.”
Murphy is proud to talk about firefighters, his firefighters.
“Once they go in that door, as the person responsible for them, when they all come out, when we’re all out and safe and we all go home, there’s no feeling like that.”
And so our Person of the Week is a Montville firefighter!