32-year-old rookie named Albion firefighter of the year

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 April 2014 at 12:00 am

Jim Peruzzini joined AFD after firefighters responded to a call at his house

Photos by Tom Rivers – Albion Fire Chief Rocky Sidari, left, presents the “Firefighter of the Year” award to Jim Peruzzini, who joined the AFD last May.

ALBION – Jim Peruzzini and his wife Stephanie had just moved into a new home in Gaines with their twin daughters when the smoke alarm went off.

They called 911 and Albion firefighters showed up to check out the situation. Peruzzini was impressed by their response and willingness to help.

“I thought it was great that they would give up their time and come to my house and help someone out,” Peruzzini said.

Fire Chief Rocky Sidari and Assistant Chief Jeremy Graham encouraged Peruzzini to join the Fire Department. He thought about it before, but didn’t pursue it, assuming he was too busy to meet the training requirements and to respond to emergency calls.

File photo by Tom Rivers – Jim Peruzzini and his twin daughters watch a Mercy Flight helicopter from Batavia land by the Albion Elk’s Club just before a Sept. 11 memorial service.

But last May he made the commitment. He took an intense two-week firefighter boot camp and by July had enough training to be an interior firefighter. He is often one of the first firefighters at a scene.

“He has really taken off like a rocket,” Sidari said tonight when he named Peruzzini the department’s “Firefighter of the Year.”

Peruzzini, 32, works full-time at Adfors (formerly called Saint-Gobain) as a setup technician. He didn’t grow up in a firefighting family. He encouraged others in the community to consider volunteering with the fire department.

“I love it,” he said. I like the guys and there’s the thrill with every call that it could be something huge.”

His wife said Peruzzini is quick to head out the door when his pager goes off, unless he is caring for their children.

Sidari said a committed volunteer like Peruzzini is a great addition to the fire department.

“It’s huge to have someone step in like that,” he said.

Kevin Sheehan (left), Albion’s former deputy mayor, reads the oath of office for Albion Fire Department leaders, including from left: Chief Rocky Sidari, Deputy Chief Harry Papponetti and Assistant Chief Jeremy Graham.

Sidari and the fire department honored others during their annual banquet tonight at the Carlton Recreation Hall. The following received awards:

Chief’s Award: Dan Gleason. He is active with the fire police and responded to the second most calls for the department last year. Gleason also fixes the department’s computers, will make key fobs and handle other requests from Sidari.

“Anything I ask him to do, he will do it,” Sidari said.

Gleason is moving to North Carolina. “It’s going to a be a big loss for our department,” Sidari said.

Officer’s Award: Will Francis, the department’s first lieutenant. Francis led the department in calls, responding to 62 percent of more than 400 calls last year.

File photo by Tom Rivers – Will Francis of the Albion Fire Department keeps a steady stream of water on the smoking ruins of the Orleans Pallet warehouse last Oct. 19. Firefighters were on the scene for several days after the fire to douse any flare-ups.

“He’s gone above and beyond and exceeded all of my expectations,” Sidari said. “He’s there day or night.”

Drivers of the Year: Dale Banker and Ron Armstrong. They are reliable, especially during the late mornings and early afternoon when the department is often short-handed.

President’s Award: AFD President Lee Miesner honored two members of the Village Board who recently ended their terms. Both former Mayor Dean Theodorakos and Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheehan were advocates for the department in the village budget, Miesner said.

“They made sure the funding was there,” Miesner said. “Without our Village Board we’d have nothing.”