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Mark Hennessy  - 2010 Rensselaer County Firefighter of the Year

Hennessy accepting award



Firefighting has always been and always will be a team effort, from locating, suppression, ventilation, search and rescue and extinguishment. On certain days and certain calls there is always one firefighter or a group of firefighters who go above and beyond to make a difference in an operations outcome.

On July 18, 2010, a hot humid day, our fire department received an automatic alarm for a senior citizen high rise apartment complex.  This complex is six stories high with 97 apartments, housing 102 senior and handicapped residents.  Since it’s opening many years ago our department routinely responds to this housing complex for EMS assistance,  food left unattended on the stove or  accidental or faulty alarms. However on this day this alarm would stretch our department resources and its personnel to its limits.

While responding to this automatic alarm the dispatcher alerted the companies, via radio, that they were receiving numerous calls for a working apartment fire on the second floor.  

Upon the arrival of the first due Engine Company and its size up, a heavy smoke condition was reported on the second floor. Due to the size and occupancy of the building, and in accordance with department preplans and protocol, a second alarm was requested and transmitted through our dispatch center.

Orders were given for the second due Engine Company to secure a water supply and support the building’s stand-pipe system. Additional orders were given to the Ladder Company to place it’s apparatus in the front of the building to possibly affect rescues.  

With life safety always being our number one priority, personnel donned SCBA, grabbed hand tools and began stretching hand lines in an attempt to search for trapped occupants. While ascending the east stairwell to the fire floor, the companies were being passed by exiting occupants.  Upon arrival to the second floor, just inside the fire door, one firefighter found four tenants all of whom were handicapped and or confined to wheel chairs.

This firefighter, knowing he must get these trapped occupants to safety, started to carry the occupants down the stairs and outside.   This firefighter repeated this act four times, each time becoming more and more exhausted. Once he removed all the residents to safety he immediately began to triage the patients and initiate emergency medical treatment including administering oxygen. Only after all four of the tenants where stabilized and care was turned over to other qualified emergency medical technicians did this firefighter start to feel the affects of the work he had just performed.

This firefighter, completely exhausted was in need of oxygen himself. Oxygen was administered to this firefighter and his vital signs were taken and he was closely monitored.  It was soon determined that this firefighter  was suffering from heat exhaustion and needed to be transported to the hospital for closer observation.

The fire was contained to the apartment of origin; ventilation and fire suppression were performed in text book fashion.  All of the occupants were removed floor by floor in a secondary search of the building.

Many people and organizations were involved in the successful overall operation. These organizations included our mutual aid departments, County Bureau of Fire, several EMS agencies; all of which handled patient care and rehab for firefighters, the Red Cross, CDTA, the Rensselaer City School District, REMO and the Rensselaer County CERT.

The first firefighter on scene that day was Firefighter Mark Hennessy.  Through his training, quick decision making, and dedication to civilian safety, Mark exemplified a firefighters courage and willingness to put others first and to protect life and property. Mark displayed the fortitude to carryout all the above mentioned tasks for a successful outcome and through his knowledge help to avoid a major catastrophe.

The Rensselaer Fire Department is proud to nominate Firefighter Mark Hennessey for Rensselaer County Firefighter of the Year 2010.