A hard-working volunteer has been named the 2013 Firefighter of the Year by the Weston Volunteer Fire Department. WVFD officers named Steve Russo Firefighter of the Year at a ceremony on June 6.
This is Mr. Russo’s second time receiving this honor. He was also named Firefighter of the Year in 2011.
“We just couldn’t resist giving this award to Steve again. He is consistent, enthusiastic and responds to a large number of calls at all hours of the night. He’s exactly what we want in a firefighter,” said Fire Chief John Pokorny.
Craig Cohen, president of the WVFD, called Mr. Russo a “great person and extraordinary firefighter.”
“His dedication and commitment sets him apart from others,” he said.
This isn’t the first time an individual has been named Firefighter of the Year more than once in Weston. Mr. Pokorny recalled that Steve Ash and others have also received the honor multiple times. “We try not to give it to the same person, but when someone stands out so much we want to acknowledge it,” he said.
Mr. Russo said he was surprised and humbled to be named Firefighter of the Year again. “I’m very grateful for the recognition, but there are many firefighters in the department who are way more qualified, experienced, and equally deserving of the honor,” he said.
Mr. Russo, 57, and his wife Lisa have lived in Weston for 29 years. They have three grown children — Caitlyn, a personal trainer, Connor, a teacher in Boston for autistic children, and Matthew, a captain in the U.S. Army. As a member of the Connecticut Area Support Group, Matthew Russo finished a year-long tour of duty in Kuwait this past December. He will be attending Notre Dame this fall to work on his master’s degree.
Mr. Russo is an attorney in Greenwich, a partner with the law firm Fogarty, Cohen, Selby, and Nemiroff. He primarily practices commercial and residential real estate law.
No stranger to community service, Mr. Russo served on Weston’s Planning and Zoning Commission for nine years, two years as vice chairman, and a short time as chairman, and worked on the 2000 Plan of Conservation and Development.
Mr. Russo was involved in Norfield Church on its outreach committee, and spent several years on the Weston Little League board, coaching baseball and girls softball. He is also on the board of the Weston Field Club.
For hobbies, Mr. Russo enjoys working out and cycling, swimming, and running.
Because his children are grown, Mr. Russo said he has fewer immediate family obligations than others do and therefore has more time to answer fire calls in the middle of the night.
“You always know when there is a call at 2 or 3 in the morning that Steve will be there,” said Curtis Gunn, past president of the WVFD.
Last year, Mr. Russo went on calls ranging from false alarms to downed wire calls which can last for hours, and several structure fire calls — on Steep Hill Road, Wood’s End Lane, Georgetown Road, and Langner Lane. His assignments were varied on each call, subject to the direction of the incident commander.
For the fire on Langner Lane, Mr. Russo was assigned to operate the nozzle of the hose to put out the fire. “That was especially rewarding, all firefighters want to put out the fire,” he said.
Mr. Russo will also leave his work in Greenwich to respond to a fire call in Weston if he can. “When I’m available, I feel I just have to go,” he said.
Mr. Russo was prompted to join the fire department when his kids graduated from high school. “Once my kids were out of the school system, this was a way for me to keep in contact with the community,” he said.
He said his wife is very understanding when his fire pager goes off in the middle of the night. “I think my wife is accustomed to it and doesn’t even hear it anymore,” he said.
With all his experience, though, Mr. Russo is modest when it comes to his service with the fire department. “I think I have a lot to learn still,” he said. That’s the main reason he goes to as many of the drills and department meetings as he can.
By volunteering for the fire department, he has made a lot of lifelong friends, and that has been the most gratifying part of his experience. “I think I get more out of volunteering for the fire department than what I put into it. But I enjoy it. It’s worth it in the end,” he said.