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Leverett firefighter excels at training academy

LEVERETT — Leverett firefighter Stephen Sengebush received the Martin H. McNamara Outstanding Student award from the Massachusetts Fire Academy during its graduation ceremony in Palmer Sept. 18.

Sengebush, 26, was nominated to receive the award by the lead instructor of the Academy’s Call/Volunteer Firefighter Recruit Training Class, which he had been attending since early April.

According to Jennifer Mieth of the state Department of Fire Services, the award was created by Massachusetts Fire Training Council in honor of Martin H. McNamara, a call firefighter from Lancaster who died fighting a structure fire in 2003, and is awarded to one student from each class who excelled in both the academic and practical application portions of the course.

“It was a huge surprise,” Sengebush said.

Over the course of the six-month program, Sengebush and 33 fellow trainees received instruction on the proper use of firefighting equipment such as ladders and extrication tools, the science behind fires and various methods of combatting them. Later in the course, he said, the students’ skills were tested in a trial by fire, in which they entered a concrete building in Springfield filled with burning pallets and bales of straw.

Sengebush said that entailed assessing the scene and then carrying hoses and equipment into the blazing structure to search for victims and quell the fire. “Nothing really teaches firefighting like being in a fire.” Sengebush said he was impressed by the quality of instruction at the academy.

“I’m pretty new to firefighting. I don’t come from a family of firefighters like a lot of the kids do. There was just an incredible amount to learn, but the instructors were just extremely dedicated to helping us get through it all and be successful,” he said.

Sengebush said his interest in becoming a firefighter began shortly after he moved to Leverett last April and met Selectman Peter d’Errico, who provided him with information about the town’s Fire Department and its need for volunteers. In July, he called the department and was encouraged to join by Fire Chief John Moruzzi.

“Steve’s a great kid,” Moruzzi said. “He did an excellent job at the academy, and we’re very pleased that he’s on at the department and able to help out. Many of us senior guys are getting ready to leave, and Steve will be able to step right in and take over some of the responsibilities. I think he’ll make a great leader some day.”

According to Moruzzi, Sengebush was paid for the time he spent training at the academy by the Leverett Fire Department as part of his stipend.

“Firefighting is a job where I feel like everything you do has a direct impact on making the lives of people in your community better,” Sengebush said. “It can be sort of the big things like saving people from burning buildings, but more often it can be little stuff like assisting with medical calls until an ambulance arrives and reminding them to take a change of clothes with them or lock up the house after they leave.”

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