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Gov. Deval Patrick will award posthumous Medal of Honor to late Peabody firefighter

Posted by Ryan Mooney  December 12, 2012 12:41 PM

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Jim Rice, the 42-year-old father of three who perished fighting an apartment fire just days before last Christmas, will receive a posthumous Medal of Honor at the 23rd annual Firefighter of the Year awards ceremony.next Tuesday at Mechanic's Hall in Worcester

   The award along with others given to firefighters for their brave deeds will be handed out by Gov. Deval Patrick, Public Safety and Security Secretary Mary Elizabeth Heffernan, and State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan, 

More than 700 people, including firefighters from all over the state and as far away as Calgary, mourned in Peabody during Rice's funeral after the 11-year Peabody fire veteran died battling a three-alarm blaze on Hancock Street on December 23, 2011.

About a dozen civilians escaped the building unharmed thanks to Rice and the other first-responders that day.

A Medal of Honor will also be awarded posthumously to Jon D. Davies, a father of four and 17-year-veteran of the Worcester Fire Department, who perished attempting to rescue the occupant of a burning home on Arlington Street last December, just weeks before Rice was killed in the line of duty. The occupant, it was later found out, was not in the building.

Peabody Fire Captain, now Deputy Chief, Eric Harrison, who pulled an unresponsive Rice by himself from the burning building, will be honored for his attempt to save Rice's life. Four other  Peabody's firefighters - Captain Dale Kimball, Paul Rheaume, Stephen Pellegrini, and Paul LaPlante - will also be cited for their role in saving a trapped teen from a car fire last December.

Three Salem firefighters will also be honored. Lieutenant Richard Arno, Randy Theriault and Michael O'Donnell managed to pull two children from a blaze alive in March after a horrific murder attempt by their mother, who slashed their throats and then set fire to their apartment in a 10-story high-rise on Pope Street after disabling the sprinkler system.

In total, 31 awards will be presented to 72 honorees from the Bridgewater, Brookline, Easton, Hyannis, Leominster, Lynn, Maynard, Peabody, Salem, Saugus, Stow, Swansea, Westfield, and Worcester fire departments at the ceremony that is schedule to start at 10:30 a.m.

The awards include a Norman Knight Award for Excellence in Community Service, nine Individual Awards for Meritorious Conduct, three Group Awards for Meritorious Conduct to teams of firefighters, the Patriot's Award, the Fire Marshal's Award, and 14 Medals of Valor.

Ryan Mooney can be reached at globe.mooney@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @mooney_ryan.

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