Riverhead Fire Department Lt. Justin Berry has been named 2023 firefighter of the year by the Firefighters Association of the State of New York.
The honor comes to recognize Berry’s heroic rescue following a rapidly spreading house fire in Riverhead on Dec. 30, according to a press release from the firefighters association.
Berry climbed through a window of the burning house on Doris Avenue late that afternoon to rescue a 77-year-old resident inside.
Berry entered the house, which was filled with smoke, located the man on the floor and lifted him up and through the window to safety, into the arms of firefighters and police officers.
In an interview the day after the incident, Berry said the save was a group effort.
“It was a Riverhead save and the guys in the fire department did a really great job,” Berry told RiverheadLOCAL on Dec. 31. “It’s the Riverhead Fire Department, Riverhead Police, Riverhead EMTs. They all did a great job. It’s a Riverhead save and I’m proud of the men and women that were there to get the job done,” Berry said.
Riverhead Police Officers had already assisted an occupant, an elderly female, out of the front door with the aid of her walker, according to the press release. She told the police a second occupant was still in the rear of the building.
Berry was in the first engine to arrive on the scene and Second Assistant Chief Pete Kurzyna, who had command of the incident, instructed him to assist First Assistant Chief J.R. Renten in the rear of the structure where the victim was last seen.
Berry climbed through the window “without hesitation into the dark, extremely hot room,” the association’s press release said.
“It is without any doubt that the actions of the first responders changed that fate of this victim, and the heroic actions of Lt. Justin Berry, who fearlessly put himself in harm’s way, saved that man’s life,” Riverhead Fire Chief Joseph Hartmann said in the press release.
The lieutenant, a seven-year member of the department, will be honored at the association’s 151st annual convention this week in upstate Niagara.
“Lt. Berry acted heroically and selflessly to rescue this individual,” Firefighters Association of the State of New York President Ed Tase said. “His intervention and quick actions saved this person’s life, and we are proud to name him as the FASNY 2023 Firefighter of the Year.”
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