St. Clair Shores firefighters, citizens honored for efforts to help others

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 30, 2018

 Fire Chief James Piper speaks at the 2018 St. Clair Shores Fire Department First Responders Recognition and Appreciation Breakfast Nov. 27 at Assumption Cultural Center.

Fire Chief James Piper speaks at the 2018 St. Clair Shores Fire Department First Responders Recognition and Appreciation Breakfast Nov. 27 at Assumption Cultural Center.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

 Firefighters and their families were honored for their work by the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores.

Firefighters and their families were honored for their work by the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Reflecting on “how lucky we are to have such a dedicated department,” the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores honored the St. Clair Shores Fire Department with a recognition and appreciation breakfast Nov. 27.

Firefighters and citizens were honored for their lifesaving efforts over the past year.

Optimist Club member Debbie DePape, who co-chaired the event, reflected on the department’s efforts to respond to calls throughout the city and said that St. Clair Shores is lucky to have a dedicated department.

“Everyone realizes that you put yourself in harm’s way, every day,” she said.

Fire Chief James Piper said that over the course of the past year, the department has fought more than 50 structure fires and countless other blazes, and that ambulances roll out of the city’s three stations, on average, 17 times per day.

“For that citizen out there, it’s likely the first time they called 911,” he said. “They make that citizen feel like they’re the No. 1 thing out there. We’re there to try and make it better because that’s what we do.”

The Fire Department responds to more than 8,000 calls for service per year, he said, explaining that while sometimes it’s to help someone who cannot get up by themselves after falling, sometimes it’s to restart a heart and sometimes it’s to save a baby duck from the sewer.

“We’re just here trying to help. That’s why we have the best job on the planet. People don’t know who to call — the Fire Department shows up. There is no 912 — we’re it,” he said. “We get to go and make someone’s day better.”

Firefighter/medic Daniel Hoard was honored at the breakfast for his efforts to secure a grant from Firehouse Subs for new extrication equipment for the department. Firefighter/medic Jake Brazil was recognized for having the most emergency medical runs over the year.

Piper also recognized Training Chief Ryan Koepp and firefighter/medic Brian Posluszny, as well as team members Michael DeCraene, Eric Retzbach, Jason Jenuwine, Bryan Pittiglio and MacLean Alexander for their efforts to ensure a safe working environment in a house that showed signs of collapse.

“It was a pretty intense fire, with a lot of wind,” Piper said, explaining that the team identified the likely hazards of collapse and shored up the structure to prevent the attic from collapsing on the remainder of the house.

The department also honored four citizens for their efforts to assist in emergencies before fire and EMS personnel could arrive on the scene. Kathleen Taylor rescued her elderly neighbor from her burning home, and Faheem McGee was able to use a portable fire extinguisher to put out a kitchen fire at an eight-unit apartment building.

David Tomlian, of St. Clair Shores, and Megan Manczyk, of Harrison Township, were at the St. Clair Shores Public Library in March studying when an elderly woman collapsed in the library.

Manczyk said they were able to do an assessment of the woman’s condition and performed CPR and used an automated external defibrillator on the woman while they waited for EMS to arrive.

“One of the reasons I want to become a nurse ... (is to) have the skills to help people at any time,” Manczyk said.

Piper said that the pair gave the woman the best chance of survival that they could have.

“One of the things that is amazing to us in the fire service is when civilians ... decide to step up and step in when needed,” he said. “It’s an amazing thing to see. It’s something that should be acknowledged.”