Troy Fire Department honors its best

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published October 5, 2011


They’ve been left at grocery stores, restaurants and birthday parties, even at holiday gatherings, to fend for themselves while Troy volunteer firefighters answer the call to serve.

Troy Fire Chief Bill Nelson acknowledged the sacrifice family members make so that firefighters can serve during the Troy Fire Department annual recognition program Sept. 14.

Tom Duncan, 2011 Troy Firefighter of the Year, is usually one of the first volunteers to arrive on the scene when the alarm sounds.

“Spouses all have a litany of stories of being left,” Nelson said. “My wife, Doris, has been left at the restaurant and grocery store,” he said.

He said that a family “buy-in” is essential to the success of the largely volunteer force, and that most, if not all, of the volunteers have full-time jobs.

For Tom Duncan, named Firefighter of the Year, it’s a family thing.

His grandfather served as a charter member of Station 1, and his son Jonathon serves with him as a lieutenant at Station 2.

Duncan has served for 33 years. He has been mentor to the new firefighters, hosts tours of the fire station for children and has been a member of the Fire Department Honor Guard for 20 years. His nomination information stated that he is consistently one of the first firefighters to arrive at incidents in the middle of the night, whether it’s a fire alarm or a structure fire.

“Every run is a different experience,” he said.

Duncan served 20 years in the U.S. Army Reserves and was called to active duty during the Gulf War. He works a day job as a butcher at Hollywood Market.

In addition to being on call, firefighters train once a week for three hours.

“It’s part of the routine,” Duncan said. “Monday nights are training nights.”

“In Troy, we see very little actual fires, so we have to keep skills honed,” he said.

His fellow firefighters are “a very good group of people,” he said.

During the recognition ceremony, Nelson remembered the sacrifice of Lt. James Rupkey, assigned to Station 5, who served for 29 years and suffered a fatal heart attack during a search and rescue drill April 23, 2001, as well as firefighters who lost their lives at the World Trade Center Sept. 11, 2001.

Nelson issued the Merit Service Award to the firefighters from stations 3 and 4 who responded to a July 22 fire at Sunnymede Apartments, on Kirts Boulevard.

Firefighters who arrived on the scene just before 5 p.m. that day mounted an aggressive attack of the blaze, which spread quickly from two units on the first and second floors to the attic and roof, and ensured that all residents were evacuated. Numerous pets were reunited with their owners.

Nelson said the quick and professional actions of the firefighters in conditions of heavy fire and smoke with high temperatures and humidity saved the entire structure and ensured no one was hurt.

Duncan did not assist with that fire, but said that he and six others were at Station 2, “ready to go,” in case they were needed.

Nelson explained that serving on the force is a commitment the volunteers make individually.

“There’s no rule they have to respond to every call,” he said. “When something happens, they want to be there. It’s a different motivation. It really is a culture of volunteers.”