Weston Volunteer Fire Department gives annual awards

Gib Shea received the Weston Volunteer Fire Department’s Special Award.

Gib Shea received the Weston Volunteer Fire Department’s Special Award.

The Weston Volunteer Fire Department honored three members for their service at the annual Fire Recognition Dinner on Saturday, Dec. 9.

The Firefighter of the Year award went to Mike Zegers, while the President and Chief’s Award went to Steven Ash. A third, special award was given to Gib Shea, a 17-year-old Westonite who dedicates much of his free time to the department.

The Firefighter of the Year award is given to a volunteer who has a great impact on the operations of the department.

The President and Chief’s Award is given to a member who goes above and beyond regular duties.

The special award isn’t given annually, and was given specifically to Gib for his dedication to the department.

“All three of these guys have been fantastic for us,” said Weston fire Chief John Pokorny. “They’ve done a really great job serving the town of Weston.

Weston Fire Chief John Pokorny with Firefighter of the Year Mike Zegers and  Fire Dept. President Craig Cohen.

Weston Fire Chief John Pokorny with Firefighter of the Year Mike Zegers and Fire Dept. President Craig Cohen.

Firefighter of the Year

Mike Zegers, 51, has lived in Weston for 25 years with his wife, Melissa. His two children, Max and Zoe, are both Weston High School graduates.

He previously worked in finance but retired early and has since dedicated much of his time to the department.

“I had the opportunity to join a group of people who really care about our town, and I took that opportunity,” said Zegers.

Zegers joined the department three years ago and has been on many calls since, including nearly 250 in 2017.

“Mike has been with the department for a few years and he gives us a lot of time,” said Pokorny. “He’s one of the highest responders in the department and has really stepped up to help us out a lot. He’s done a really great job.”

Zegers said he was surprised that he won the award, and believes any member of the department could have been chosen for the honor.

“The whole department does the dirty work, and that is impressive to me,” said Zegers. “Everyone is willing to do the small things like washing trucks and cleaning the station, so I was surprised that I was chosen for this award. It’s very humbling.”

Zegers also recently became one of the town’s registrars of voters. He also volunteers to do trail work at Devil’s Den.

President and Chief’s Award

Steven Ash, 38, recipient of the President and Chief’s award, moved to Weston when he was 15 and joined the department a year later.

President and Chief’s Award winner Steven Ash.

President and Chief’s Award winner Steven Ash.

A New York City native, Ash was always interested in joining a fire department but didn’t have the chance to when he lived in the city.

“I joined the Explorer program at 15 and then I joined the department at 16 and never looked back,” he said. “I love it — it’s so rewarding to be able to be in service of the townspeople.”

Pokorny said Ash has a knack for getting things done.

“Steven does a lot of organizational things behind the scenes; he helps make things run smoothly,” said Pokorny. “He works with the town on building maintenance in the department to make sure facility needs are met.”

Ash lives in Weston with his wife, Lorin, and their son, Jacob. He is a captain for the department and oversees much of the operations at the Norfield Road station.

Ash works on a lot of personnel issues, paperwork, training reports, and much of the essential minutiae of the day-to-day parts of the department.

“I was told that this was an aggregation of the work I’ve been doing over the years. I didn’t think I was in the running for this,” said Ash.

Ash works in construction and praised the volunteer nature of the whole town of Weston.

“Whether it’s fire or EMS or many positions in town government, Weston runs on volunteers,” he said. “Of course, it’s fun to drive the fire trucks and help put out fires, but it’s truly rewarding to help others by volunteering.”

Special award

Gib Shea, 17, has been as directly involved in the department as he can be since he was 14.

“The special award was given to me to commemorate my service at a young age,” said Gib. “It was very much a surprise and it was very flattering. It really caught me off guard.”

Gib has lived in Weston his whole life. His parents are Carrie and Tom Shea, and he has a sister, Lilly.

He is currently a senior at Wooster School in Danbury and intends to go to Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y. He plans to study emergency management, public health and public safety.

Gib has been allowed to respond to fire and EMS calls in a truncated manner, and as of July 2016 he has gone on more than 400 calls.

“Being able to respond to calls and help out a town like Weston is very fulfilling,” said Gib, who said he has wanted to be a firefighter his whole life.

“I was always a firefighter for Halloween, I’ve always had an enthusiastic desire to help,” he said.

Gib was introduced to the department by Bill Gluck, a family friend who died in 2015. Gluck was a captain in the Weston Volunteer Fire Department.

“Bill Gluck encouraged me to join the department,” said Gib. “When I was growing up I often saw him responding to calls, and he encouraged me to get interested in fire and EMS. He’s one of the biggest influences in my life.”

Pokorny said Gib has been anxious to join the department for years, and since he has been able to go on calls, he has been extremely valuable.

“He’s stepped up like no kid I’ve seen step up in years,” said Pokorny. “He goes on a lot of calls and he’s getting himself involved in all the ways that he can. He’s been absolutely essential for us.”

Pokorny said he’s happy Gib is going away to college but the department will miss him. “He’s really found a way to fit in with all of us,” he said.

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