Charlie Cole was named Weston’s Firefighter of the Year, while Joe Rainone was given the 2016 President and Chief’s Award at a recent ceremony at St. Francis of Assisi Parish.
According to Weston fire Chief John Pokorny, 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.
“They’re both very deserving,” said Pokorny. “Charlie and Joe are really great guys who do a lot for the department.”
Cole, 59, has been a member for 14 years. He said he joined because he felt the need to contribute to the town.
“Larry Liggett [a current member of the department] was working on my house and told me he thought I would be a great addition to the department,” said Cole. “Volunteerism is something I believe very strongly in, so I decided to join.”
Cole said the department was immediately a good fit for him.
“Everyone is there for the same reason — they want to donate their time to something good,” said Cole. “When I was younger I never even conceived that doing something like this was something that I would be interested in.”
Cole, who directs television commercials, guesses that he went on more than 270 calls in 2016, around half the department’s annual calls.
“When I get to a call and I turn around, Charlie is always right behind me and ready to go,” said Pokorny. “I think he has been our top responder for the past two or three years in total.”
Pokorny praised Cole’s willingness to learn new things and said he is always willing to take classes to learn additional skills that benefit him as a firefighter.
Cole was recently voted vice president of the department, and said he is looking forward to working with department President Craig Cohen to continue making the department the best it can be.
“I believe everyone should volunteer, do something,” said Cole. “I’m a big believer in it. I think it is important to give back whenever you can.”
President and Chief’s Award
Joe Rainone, who was awarded the President and Chief’s Award, has been involved in the fire department since 2004. He said he joined after 9/11 when he started thinking about what he could do to help his country and his hometown.
“I wanted to do something that could help Weston, and I wanted it to be something I knew that I would enjoy,” said Rainone. “At the time, I had young children and I kept running into firefighters at their sporting events. I started talking to them and it made sense to me. I was so impressed with their group that I wanted to join.”
Rainone has been the treasurer of the department for the last five years. “We work with a really tight budget,” said Pokorny. “Joe helps us to make sure we know exactly where we are at all times.”
Rainone is part of the executive committee and helps to make “key financial decision” for the department, according to Pokorny.
“He’s been going to a lot of calls lately,” said Pokorny. “He supports us every way that he can.”
Rainone, the head of supply chain and product development for Melissa & Doug in Wilton, has lived in town since 2002.
“When I was asked to help out as treasurer a few years back, I couldn’t say no,” said Rainone. “Once you’re in this organization, all you want to do is help each other out. It’s a wonderful community of people.”
Rainone, 52, joined the department at close to 40 and never thought of himself as a firefighter before joining the squad.
“You jump right into it with an amazing training program,” said Rainone. “They teach you how to do everything correctly and safely. They really make you feel empowered to start helping people.”
Rainone said the department is like a family to him and his own children have been involved in the department recently.
“The truth is, when people need fire or EMS to show up, it’s one of the worst days of their lives,” said Rainone. “If we can help them solve some of their problems, then I can walk away happy.”