A group of students who had just graduated from Port Jefferson High School in Long Island, New York, went from walking the stage to claim their diplomas to putting out a fire after being alerted to a nearby fire.
Their principal, Eric Haruthunian, identified the six brave students as Kasumi Layne-Stasik, Shane Hartig, Ryan Parmegiani, Andrew Patterson, Peter Rizzo, and Hunter Volpi.
The graduates, who also volunteer with the Port Jefferson Fire Department, were busy taking photos with their family and friends shortly after the ceremony when the fire siren went off three times.
Alerts then began sounding and vibrating 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.
That student was also just returning home from the ceremony, said Port Jefferson fire chief Christian Neubert.
At the scene, Rizzo commandeered a nozzle, a key job as the first person inside the garage. Others helped tear apart walls and ceilings to look for concealed spots where the fire might have still been burning or could catch 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. Most importantly, no one was hurt.
“They were nice and calm. Nobody was running. Nobody was yelling,” Neubert told Newsday. “Everything was just really impressive.”
The night before graduation, the students were joking about what they would do if a fire broke out in town during the event. They never thought it would actually 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. They have been full-fledged volunteers since turning 17.
Everyone had undergone extensive training, including most Sundays, at the firehouse. Some days, they train at the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank.
“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 definitely 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 the students for their heroic actions.
“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.”
Kudos to these young volunteers for their heroic work and motivation to serve!
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