Liberty Mutual Insurance, one of the nation’s leading home and auto insurers, today is celebrating America’s firefighters by announcing the recipients of its National Firemark Award. Lieutenants Paul McAllister and Christopher Seelenbrandt of West Warwick, R.I., are recipients of the Liberty Mutual Firemark Award for Heroism; and Lieutenant Robert Hendrigan of Brockton, Mass., has earned the Liberty Mutual Firemark Award for Community Service and Public Education. For their everyday self-sacrifice and tireless efforts to protect and promote public safety, Liberty Mutual will award the West Warwick (IAFF Local 1104) and Brockton (IAFF Local 144) Fire Departments each with a $10,000 grant in their respective winners’ honor.
A committee comprised of numerous fire safety organizations selected the Liberty Mutual National Firemark Award winners from among a pool of more than 150 firefighter nominees, each of whom had received a local Firemark Award from a Liberty Mutual Insurance office in their community throughout 2011. The selection committee includes representatives from such fire safety groups as the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the National Fire Protection Association, the National Association of State Fire Marshals, the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, and the Center for Public Safety Excellence.
“The Liberty Mutual National Firemark Award winners exemplify the unique courage and commitment firefighters demonstrate every day to help us prevent the devastation of a home fire and to protect us when they do occur,” said Greg Gordon, Liberty Mutual Insurance senior vice president of Marketing. “As a company that also embraces our responsibility to protect lives and homes, it is fitting for us to honor Firefighters McAllister, Seelenbrandt and Hendrigan, and to celebrate the countless men and women — career or volunteer — who serve our communities so selflessly.”
Liberty Mutual National Firemark Award for Heroism
Lieutenant Paul McAllister and Lieutenant Christopher Seelenbrandt, West Warwick Fire Department
On March 1, 2011, the West Warwick Fire Department conducted an ice-rescue training exercise with four new recruits. Little did they know that only hours later two of their more seasoned firefighters would be in freezing Rhode Island pond waters saving the life of an 8-year-old boy who had fallen through thin ice. Lieutenant Paul McAllister was the first out of the truck and he set out across the ice in his survival suit connected to 100 feet of lifeline, falling through the ice three times along the way. About 20 feet short of reaching the panicked child, the rope reached its end. McAllister unhooked himself and continued without his safety line, reaching the young boy just moments before he lost what was left of a tenuous grip on the ice.
Lieutenant Chris Seelenbrandt, following moments later in the department’s hazmat vehicle, arrived to find his colleague stranded more than 40 yards from shore, without a lifeline and with the young boy clinging to his neck. Seelenbrandt crept across the ice with 300 feet of lifeline to rescue them both, ultimately relying on the other West Warwick firefighters on shore to tow all three back in. The boy was treated and released from a Providence hospital later that evening.
West Warwick Fire Chief Joseph Baris says the department will earmark the Liberty Mutual grant toward purchasing a new boat, motor and trailer to aid in future water rescues. The department currently relies on a reconditioned inflatable boat; and that craft only recently replaced a 1954 aluminum boat the department was forced to retire after it proved inadequate during the 2010 floods.
Liberty Mutual National Firemark Award for Community Service
Lieutenant Robert Hendrigan, Brockton Fire Department
Lieutenant Robert Hendrigan was a 12-year Brockton Fire Department veteran when Chief Richard Francis selected him to head the public education division in early 2011. In just one year, that decision has benefitted more than 3,700 Brockton school children in 171 kindergarten, first- and third-grade classrooms, each of whom have experienced one of Lieutenant Hendrigan’s SAFE (Student Awareness of Fire Education) programs. Lieutenant Hendrigan also spearheaded a fire extinguisher training program for school department employees, which was credited for a faculty member’s successful extinguishing of an elementary school cafeteria fire just five days after his training. The Brockton Fire Department’s annual open house last fall, organized by Lieutenant Hendrigan, was visited by more than 1,000 residents — the department’s most successful open house ever.
Brockton Fire Chief Francis says the Liberty Mutual grant will enable the department to refurbish its Freddie the Fire Truck robot to bring that childrens’ educational tool back into classrooms, and also to expand Lieutenant Hendrigan’s fire extinguisher training program to reach more employees at local schools, elderly housing and other community locations.
In addition to the awards and fire department grants, each National Firemark Award winner receives a trip for four to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida from Liberty Mutual. While at the resort, they will visit the largest fire safety exhibit in the United States, Liberty Mutual’s “Where’s the Fire?” at INNOVENTIONS at Epcot. This exhibit opened in 2004 and has shared the message of fire safety and prevention with visitors from across the globe.
About the Liberty Mutual Firemark Award
The Liberty Mutual Firemark Award is presented annually to U.S. firefighters who best represent their communities through courageous valor and who best demonstrate the firefighter’s selfless spirit. The award takes its name from the firemark, a leaden plate in the form of a Phoenix rising from the ashes, which American fire offices in the 18th and 19th centuries used to mark all the houses they insured. The firemark stood as a guarantee to all fire brigades that the insurance company that insured the house in question would reward them for extinguishing a fire on the premises.
Firefighters McAllister, Seelenbrandt and Hendrigan, as well as other past Liberty Mutual National Firemark Award winners, are celebrated on www.BeFireSmart.com, an educational website created by Liberty Mutual Insurance for parents, children, educators, and firefighters, featuring engaging videos, lesson plans for teachers, and interactive games on fire safety and prevention. The website also is the destination for fire departments and the public to nominate firefighters in their community for a Liberty Mutual Firemark Award to reward outstanding feats of heroism or community service and public fire education.