Shelton’s firefighters took center stage last week, with honors ranging from Firefighter of the Year to medals of gallantry, the Patriotic Service Award to Purple Hearts for whom Fire Chief Francis T. Jones III calls the community’s true heroes.

The Shelton Fire Department awards and promotions ceremony, held Oct. 16 in the Shelton Intermediate School auditorium, featured the elevation of Paul Wilson to deputy chief and Michael Plavcan to assistant chief.

But the night, according to Jones, also served as a chance to honor numerous local firefighters for lifesaving and dedicated service to the community over the past few years.

“Tonight, we honor the dedicated men and women, all volunteers, who selflessly serve the city of Shelton,” said Jones, adding that volunteers serve 42,000 residents over 34 square miles, and growing every day, by responding to hundreds of calls each year, from automatic alarms to commercial or residential fires.

“We are truly honoring the community’s heroes,” added Jones.

A highlight was when Huntington Fire Co. Capt. Donald Zak was named Firefighter of the Year. Zak, a firefighter for more than four decades, was a brigade member in 1975 at the BF Goodrich Sponge Rubber blaze - the largest fire in the city’s history. In the years since, Jones said Zak has responded to thousands of incidents, from automatic alarms to tragic accidents to high-rise fires.

Another special moment came when the family of the late Assistant Chief of Fire Prevention Dolores "Dolly” Collings - including her husband, firefighter David Collings - presented an award in her name to firefighter Michael Kellett of White Hills Fire Co. #5.

Jones said this award was created to honor the Shelton firefighter who “exemplifies community service … with a compassion for fire prevention, fire safety and education.

“(Dolores’) passion for fire safety, prevention and education is known throughout the state of Connecticut, and her dedication to children is legendary in Shelton,” said Jones, noticeably teary eyed when discussing Collings’ impact on his life and those of all ages in the city.

“As the assistant chief of fire prevention, numerous generations of children received fire safety education, and countless lives have been saved and fires prevented through her dedication to duty,” added Jones. “Her legacy lives on with today’s generation of volunteer firefighters who were first instructed in preschool and grammar school by (Collings).”

Among the guest speakers were Fire Commissioner Michael Maglione, Southwest Regional Communications Center Executive Director Vaughan Dumas and Mayor Mark Lauretti, who swore in the two newly promoted officers.

“It is so important to recognize all these incredible volunteers,” said Lauretti. “It is a great pleasure to be part of this … to recognize the service of people who volunteer time to protect the public and perform acts of kindness to the public in many different ways.

Lauretti said too often these actions go unrecognized, and events such as this ceremony “call attention to them and allow us to applaud the service of this wonderful department.”

Among the other awards presented were:

Medal of Valor to Lt. Charles Ovesny III, Plavcan, firefighters Tim Lestrange and Nolan Casey;

Medal of Gallantry to firefighters Steve Hoffmann and Dan McCue;

Lifesaving Award to firefighters Alan Goodman, Brian Reynolds and Michael Ferreira, Capt. Michael Minardo, firefighter Cody Studwell, A/C Nick Verdicchio and A/C Joe Constantino;

Distinguished Service Award to Plavcan, firefighters Carl Bigda and David Collings, Capt. Robert Finta, past Capt. Anthony Martinka, past Commissioner Bruce Kosowsky, past Capt. Francis Wheeler, past Capt. Craig Ferris, past Commissioner Justin Sabatino, Auxiliary member Kristen Ostrowski and firefighter Brian Rodriguez;

Purple Heart to firefighter David Toth, Capt. Justin Sabatino and Lt. Ryan Mattioli;

Unit Citations to Capt. John Scollin, Lt. Justin Mayer, Lt. Michael Pellegrino, firefighters Chris Costa, Joey Pelaggi, Matt Perkowski, Noam Meir, Nick DiCairano, Tavanie Brown, Jesse Rodgerson Matt Dickervitz, Ed Landino, Zach Brand, and Jack Brand, Jr., Capt. Michael Minardo, firefighters Jeremy Ferris, Brian Rodriquez, Alex Neuendorf, Justin Sabatino and Luke Martin, Lt. Kyle Kosiorowski, firefighters Marc Connelly, Peter Mavilla and Jon Colby, Lt. Ryan Mattioli, firefighters Robert Simon, Nick Fine, Ian Zak and Michael Sulik, Capt. Donald Zak, firefighters Nolan Casey and Austin Hathaway, and A/Cs Shaun Wheeler and Joe Constantino;

Educational Achievements to firefighters Noam Meir, Kyle Coniglio, Bryan Rodriguez and Megan Morra and Lt. Nick Demko;

Instructor of the Year to A/C Shaun Wheeler;

Shelton Fire Department and Shelton Police Department Dispatch Unit Citation to dispatchers Emily Foley, Jared Heon, Manny Rosario and Annabel Diaz; and

Patriotic Service Award to Lt. Michael Pane and retired Police Chief Joel Hurliman.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com