A group of students just graduated from Port Jefferson High School on Long Island, New York. They went from walking the stage to receive their diplomas to lighting a fire after being alerted about a nearby fire.
Eric Haruthunian, their principal, identified the six brave students to be Kasumi Layne–Stasik and Shane Hartig, Ryan Parmegiani and Andrew Patterson, Peter Rizzo and Hunter Volpi.
When the fire siren went off three more times, the graduates were busy taking photos with family and friends.
The alerts started to sound and vibrate on their cellphones.
After realizing it wasn’t just a routine check, the students dropped what they were doing and rushed to the firehouse a few blocks away, still donning their graduation attire.
“We were still in our gowns, and we still had our diplomas with us and we stripped off our gowns,” Rizzo, 17, told Good Morning America. “I didn’t even realize I still had my tie on.”
Two rode in the first engine to the scene and the other four on a ladder truck to respond to a structure fire call at one of their classmates’ homes.
Christian Neubert, Port Jefferson fire chief, said that the student was also returning home from the ceremony.
Rizzo was the first person to enter the garage and took control of a nozzle. Others helped to tear down walls and ceilings in order to find hidden places where the fire might still be burning or could catch on fire.
“It was just an adrenaline rush,” said Patterson, 18, who helped control the hose. “We don’t get a ton of real working fires and so it was exciting.”
Thanks to the group’s quick actions, the fire was put out quickly in the detached garage on Arlington Avenue. Fortunately, no one was injured.
“They were nice and calm. Nobody was running. Nobody was yelling,” Neubert told Newsday. “Everything was just really impressive.”
The night before graduation, students joked about how they would react if there were a fire at the event. They never imagined it would happen.
“They instantly have a lot more credibility because they went, they handled an emergency in a very professional and safe way,” Neubert added.
“The next time we have another emergency like that these guys are going to be held in higher regard because they can do the job.”
Most of the six students had joined the fire department’s junior volunteer program at 14. Since turning 17, they have been fully-fledged volunteers.
All of them had received extensive training, which included Sunday training at the firehouse. They train at the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank on occasion.
“But you don’t know how somebody is going to perform until they’re actually out there doing it,” he said. “I’m incredibly proud of them.”
Their graduation didn’t go as planned, but these students said they didn’t mind at all.
“I got more pictures of me at the fire than I did at graduation. But overall I do remember it. [as] a cool memory and a cool story to be able to tell people,” Parmegiani, 18, said.
The Port Jefferson Fire Department commended students for their bravery.
“Last evening PJFD responded to a garage fire on Arlington Avenue just after 7:30,” wrote the department on Facebook.
“Six of the firefighters that responded had just completed their graduation from Port Jefferson School District. In the midst of taking pictures with their families, they responded to the firehouse to handle the alarm.”
These young volunteers deserve our gratitude for their incredible work and determination to serve.
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