Michael Gervais, left, and Delmar Fire Department Chief Daniel Ryan, Jr. stand together after Gervais was awarded Fire Policeman of the Year by the Hudson Mohawk Volunteer Firefighters’ Association on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Submitted photo
DELMAR — One local firefighter holds a unique distinction among his peers.
Hudson Mohawk Volunteer Firefighters’ Association named Michael Gervais, fire police lieutenant of the Delmar Fire Department, this year’s Fire Policeman of the Year during its annual ceremony in Altamont on Wednesday, Sept. 28. The accolade distinguishes Gervais from firefighters in 16 counties: Albany, Columbia, Dutchess, Essex, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rensselaer, Rockland, Saratoga, Schenectady, Sullivan, Ulster, Warren, Washington and Westchester.
“I love my department,” said Gervais, who receives the recognition just months after being honored as the department’s Fireman of the Year.
“When my crew and I are protecting the scene with road blocks, often citizens will come out of their houses to ask me questions of what is going on,” said Gervais. “I always answer feeling very confident, honest and proud, that they’re in good hands. Delmar Fire is here! And, I’m not kidding. It seems to calm them immediately and I think it’s the way I say it with confidence.”
The 57-year-old has been with the Delmar Fire Department since 1994, with a break in service in-between. He went back to active duty three years ago, and since then has gained the confidence and camaraderie of the 65 volunteers in the house, enough to have been named lieutenant.
(The Delmar Fire Department actually consists of two houses, the original house on Adams Street and the second on Feura Bush Road; both are collectively responsible for serving 13,000 residents over approximately eight square miles.)
Ironically, it was an incident that occurred early one spring morning that earned Gervais the recognition from the Hudson Mohawk Volunteer Firefighters’ Association.
According to Gervais, he was driving to work one early June morning when he found a pre-school aged child standing in the middle of Elsmere Avenue, between Wellington and Fernbank roads. Gervais said he could see the boy standing “frozen” in the middle of the road, crying. The motorist in front of him missed the child, and kept on driving, he said. Gervais acted quickly, he maneuvered his vehicle to block oncoming traffic, called police and rescued the child.
“Holding him in my arms made me feel amazing,” said Gervais, as he recalled the moment. “This is why I joined the department.”
No charges were levied upon the child’s parents. The youngster reportedly learned how to open the door leading outside the house, and he slipped out unbeknownst to his father and mother.
Gervais’ consecutive distinctions are a first in the 106-year history of the Delmar Fire Department. He celebrated the department’s high honor in March; providing the local firefighter a uniquely decorated 2016.
When Gervais’ term as fire police lieutenant expires, a rank he has held twice so far, he said he hopes to take a run at fire police captain. But, he said, only if his current captain decides to retire. Gervais said, “I won’t run against him.”
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.