First Responders Honored For Their Spirit Of Courage

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BETHLEHEM -- Several first responders in our area are once again being recognized for their acts of courage in the line of duty.

Tuesday night the eighth annual Spirit of Courage Awards was hosted by Lehigh Valley Health Network in Bethlehem.

Under a tent outside Lehigh Valley Hospital sat a room full of heroes. These first responders were being honored for their courage in the line of duty.

This year nine of the 14 award winners are from northeastern Pennsylvania, including two firefighters from Mahanoy City who pulled three people from a burning building on April 6.

“It’s great always hearing a thank you. It’s one of nicest things you can say to a volunteer, so it means a lot,” said Lt. James Markiewicz from Mahanoy City Department.

Two fire fighters and one police chief from Lackawanna County were also recognized for pulling a man from a burning car in Greenfield Township, just after midnight on March 5.

“About half asleep and all we worried about was getting him out and that was it, it was a fireball when I got there,” said Greenfield Township Police Chief Paul Fortuner.

“It’s definitely a huge honor to be here and stuff like this. When the call first started I never thought we’d end up here by any means, definitely a huge honor, very thankful to be here,” said Clifford Township Volunteer fire fighter Michael Zeshonski.

These men say they know they’re putting their lives in danger responding to emergencies but that’s just part of the job.

“You don’t really think about it, you know it’s there, it’s a possibility, but you try not to dwell on it, I guess,” said Lt. Paul Brutto with Mahanoy City Fire Department.

“With every call you don’t know what to expect, you just go out and do what you have to do,” said Nicholas Bonczkiewicz with Greenfield Township Fire.

Another first responder from our area honored at the event was Frank Zangari, the chief of the Girardville Fire Department. He is also the Schuylkill County coordinator for WNEP’s Operation Save-A-Life, a program that provides free smoke alarms to fire departments.

Under Zangari’s leadership, more than 10,000 smoke detectors were installed in Schuylkill County.

Officials at Lehigh Valley Hospital say the money raised at this banquet through attendance and corporate sponsors will go toward burn prevention programs and to help burn victims.