FULTON, NY – Decked out in their dress blues, the men and women of Fulton’s police and fire departments, along with Menter Ambulance Service personnel were recognized Wednesday evening for the work they do each and every day of the year.
Opening the annual award ceremony, Police Chief Orlo Green explained to the crowd of more than 150 residents, family and friends who came together in the Community Room that police, fire and ambulance representatives meet every January to select the outstanding acts of courage, honor and duty.
Acting Fire Chief Paul Foster recognized the vision 20 years ago that led to the night’s show of appreciation for the men and women who serve the Fulton community.
“Out of an idea, an investment was made and a seed was planted that has grown to be what is now our 18th annual awards ceremony,” Foster said.
Speaking on behalf of the Fulton Professional Firefighter’s Association, Capt. David Eiffe said, “Routinely they respond to emergency incidents that were unforeseen, something unplanned and most likely unwanted.”
The fire captain lauded the professionalism of the members of the fire and police departments.
“If you asked any of these men and women in uniform if they were seeking an award or their picture in the paper, their standard answer would be, “No, thank you. We’re just doing our job.””
On behalf of the members of the departments he added a heartfelt thanks to their families and loved ones for their support.
Lt. Kenneth Sheldon, president of the Fulton Police Benevolent Association, said the evening was about celebrating enthusiasm, commitment and shared hard work.
“We are honoring those who work late into the evening and early into the morning,” he said. “Men and women who understood that in the long, arduous investigative trail there are often misleading side turns and unexpected obstacles. They discovered that some of the answers they got were not to the questions they actually asked.”
Master of ceremonies Christie Casciano – who has been emceeing the event each year since its inception, described the awards and introduced the recipients with her usual style and panache.
She invited award recipients to join her, Mayor Ron Woodward, the chief of police and acting fire chief along with the State Assemblyman Will Barclay onstage to accept the applause and appreciation that filled the crowded room.
Firefighter and Police Officer of the Year
The evening was highlighted by naming 2013 Firefighter of the Year Christopher Adkins, and 2013 Police Officer of the Year Christopher Jones.
Adkins was selected for the award for his strong, conscientious work ethic and consistent contributions to the city of Fulton and its fire department.
“His efforts and contributions have not gone unnoticed,” Casiano said. “His actions have not only been recognized by his own crew officers but by other crew officers as well.”
Jones has been a police officer in Fulton for almost nine years and has distinguished himself as a leader in the department for traffic enforcement and arrests.
A “cop’s cop” he is hard working, dedicated, and always goes above and beyond when investigating cases, Casciano said.
“For his hard work, his dedication, and his commitment to the city of Fulton police department and the residents of the city of Fulton, it is an honor to recognize him,” she added.
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor Award was bestowed to a pair of police officers for saving a woman from a burning building.
If she has her way an annual day of honor will be created for all first responders across the country.
Last June, Officers Michael Blasczienski and Brian Dumas were on patrol when they were the first to respond to the call of a possible structure fire.
With smoke pouring from the peak of the apartment building, Blasczienski and Dumas confirmed that fire officials were on the way, then ran to the building to alert residents who had no idea their apartment house was even on fire.
One senior citizen, Beverly Belton, who walks with a cane, was carried by the men off her porch to safety.
“She was so moved by her experience she has since led the charge to create First Responder’s Day to recognize all you gentlemen and women for what you do,” Casciano told the fire, police and emergency technicians. “She wants this for New York State, she’d like to see it go national.”
Civilian Service Award
In one of the touching personal stories of the evening, Casciano invited to the stage Jennifer O’Neil – who owes her life to her son and Fulton’s finest.
“On June 24, 9-year-old Kiernan O’Neil … found his mom in the bedroom lying on the bed … she wasn’t moving and he didn’t think that she was breathing,” Casciano said.
Instead of freezing in fear, the young man went to the neighbors and asked them to call E-911.
Officer Gary Percival was first on the scene and found the mother unresponsive.
He began CPR, the emcee said, but even after valiant lifesaving efforts by emergency responders from Menter Ambulance Service including a shock from the AED while aboard the ambulance, her heart was still not beating.
After a second attempt, Jennifer O’Neil’s pulse returned as her heart started pumping again.
Officer Gary Percival, firefighters Christopher Caza, Ryan Maxam and Randy Spencer, along with Menter Ambulance’s Sean Morganti and Joseph Susino were recognized with awards for saving the woman’s life.
“And for his quick actions for what must have been a very traumatic situation, we would like to recognize young Kiernan O’Neil with a Civilian Service Award,” Casciano said, as the audience rose to its feet give the boy a standing ovation.
Fulton resident Ed Witkowski was also recognized with a Civilian Service Award for the selfless act of rushing into his neighbors burning house with a fire extinguisher and knocking down a fire that could have resulted in a devastating loss.
Life Saving Awards
Moving to acknowledging the heroic efforts of a group of rescuers with the Life Saving Award, Casciano described an incident in March 2013 when Menter Ambulance personnel and Fulton Fire Rescue worked together to save one Fulton resident’s life.
“A woman was barely breathing, turning purple and unconscious,” she said. “Leaping into action, firefighter personnel went to work establishing an airway and getting oxygen to the patient while addressing her condition. Knowing time was short they loaded her onto a stair chair to carry her downstairs to the ambulance.”
Outside, the Menter’s Ambulance crew took over life saving efforts and by the time they arrived at the hospital the patient was stable and went on to make a full recovery.
For their actions that night Fire Lieutenants Steven Dexter, Mark Pollock and Shane Laws, firefighters Edward Kasparek, Christopher Adkins and Kenneth Gleason, and Menter AEMT Michael Zukovsky, and EMT’s Chris Foy and Cory Richer received the award.
Another averted tragedy, Menter Ambulance Service’s AEMT Michael Zukovsky, paramedic Garrett Hauf and EMT Ronald Frawley were each acknowledged with the Lifesaving Award for saving the life of a patient whose condition degraded from being dizzy to her heart stopping while aboard the ambulance.
“Suddenly she went unresponsive and the Menter’s crew looked for a pulse, but found none,” Casiano said. “The patient took a breath, then stopped breathing. The crew worked tirelessly through the race to the hospital.”
After a shock from the AED, the woman’s heart restarted just as they arrived at St. Joseph’s hospital.
Meritorious Service Awards
In another real life drama, Casiano relayed the efforts of Retired Officer Lennet Whitmore and Officer Jeremy Algarin for saving the life of a woman intent on taking her own.
Last summer the officers were on patrol in the city’s west side when they received the call of a possible suicide attempt in progress.
“When they arrived, several people were gathered around a house looking toward a second floor window,” the emcee said, “a woman had come to the window with something wrapped around her neck, threatening to kill herself.”
The officers were forced to kick in the door in order to get to the woman and once inside they found her hanging by her fingertips out the second story window.
“Grabbing the woman by each of her arms, and after a brief struggle the officers were able to get the woman back through the window to safety and subsequent treatment,” Casciano explained, as she invited the to officers to step forward and accept the Meritorious Service Award.
Another Meritorious Service Award was presented to Officer Christopher Jones for brave and decisive actions that led to the arrest of a man for setting fire to a building.
Jones was first on the scene of a reported fire and after grabbing the extinguisher from his cruiser, he entered the house as its occupants were exiting.
The officer headed toward the source of the fire.
“He quickly put it out before more damage could be done,” Casciano said, “after exiting the building he was treated for smoke inhalation and possible burns to his lungs. But, even as he was being treated he was able to learn vital information from people on the scene that eventually led to the arrest of the arsonist.”
Exceptional Duty Award
Two-thousand thirteen was also the year that saw the closure of the cold case of four-year-old Carolee Ashby, killed in a car accident on Halloween night in 1968.
Although retired from the Fulton Police Department in 2006, Russ Johnson revived the case in 2012 through a Facebook page dedicated to finding the person responsible for the little girl’s death.
Working with Fulton Police Investigator Michael Batstone and Sgt. Stephen Lunn Jr., the men were able to piece together the leads generated through social media and follow up on new information, eventually locating a person who was believed to be responsible.
Even though the statute of limitations had long since been exceeded, as a result of their outstanding work and Johnson’s persistence, the man responsible for Carolee’s death confessed bringing closure to the family and the case.
For their efforts Batstone, Lunn and Johnson received the Exceptional Duty Award.
The next award for honorable service was given to Officer Lucas Hollenbeck for his attention to detail and proactive police work that led to the arrest of two men for stealing metal from a local machine shop.
Members of the departments are given the opportunity to participate in the annual fitness challenge.
Officer Brian Dumas finished with a score greater than 90 percent and for his efforts he received the Triumphant Award.
Capt. David Eiffe and Deputy Chief Thomas Abelgore each received the certificate of excellence for placing well on the test.
Excellence in Traffic Enforcement Award
Working to protect the drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians that travel the roadways and sidewalks of the city the Fulton Police Department participates in the selective traffic enforcement program.
“The men and women of the Fulton PD work very hard to ensure the safety of Fulton neighbors and their efforts are recognized here today with mayoral commendations,” Casciano said.
STEP Award recipients included Officers Brandon Lanning, Jarrett Marino and Lucas Hollenbeck.
Also recognized for their participation in STEP were Officers Christopher Jones, Jeffrey Margrey, Victor Kaufman, Rick Hahn, Christian Dempsey, Brandon Harris and Brian Dumas.
Excellent Attendance Award
For two years of continuous duty without an absence, the firefighters and police officers who received the excellent attendance award included:
Firefighters Robert Summerville, Daniel O’Mara, and Christopher Adkins
Fire Lieutenants Steven Dexter and Mark Pollock
Police Officer Victor Kaufman
Investigators Aimee May and Michael Curtis
Lt. William Clark
and Deputy Chief Thomas Abelgore
In addition to the men and women of the city’s fire, police and rescue forces and their families, distinguished guests and dignitaries present included Assemblyman Will Barclay, E-911 Services Director Mike Allen, County Legislator Frank Castiglia, Judge David Hawthorne, Oswego County Assistant District Attorney Mark Moody, Menter Ambulance President Zach Menter, Fulton City Councilors Larry Macner and Dan Knopp, and Fire and Police Commissioners Alan DeLine, Charles Marks and William Wood.