Sunday, November 15, 2009

City firefighters muster team spirit


WORCESTER — A group of city firefighters is in Indianapolis today to take part in the celebration of that department’s 150th anniversary before the New England Patriots play the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

District Fire Chief Geoffrey Gardell learned last week he will be side by side with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the coin toss.

“Mike (Fire Capt. Michael J. Lavoie) called and said, ‘You are going out on the field to do the coin toss,’ ” District Chief Gardell said. “I thought he was joking with me.”

District Chief Gardell said he isn’t nervous about standing next to the 2007 NFL MVP and facing Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, but he admitted. “It’s pretty exciting, actually.”

District Chief Gardell was asked to take part in the coin toss because he is the highest-ranking member going to Indianapolis. Fire Chief Brian Sanford will stand with Peyton Manning.

There will be some playful ribbing, both fire departments promised, but they noted the fire services are a brotherhood that crosses national and international lines.

“There will be some heckling,” Indianapolis Fire Lt. Scott A. Huff said.

When Capt. Lavoie and other fellow firefighters went to Buffalo, N.Y., a couple of months ago for the funeral of two firefighters who died there in a building fire, he bumped into Lt. Huff.

The two talked and Lt. Huff asked if Worcester would be interested in coming to the game. Since then the pair have been arranging the visit.

Lt. Huff noted several members of his department visited Worcester to honor the six firefighters who died fighting the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. fire almost 10 years ago.

A large American flag will cover the field before Sunday’s game. All the firefighters will be in full dress uniforms. Worcester was the only department invited to take part.

Headed to the celebration with District Chief Gardell and Capt. Lavoie are Lt. John G. Franco and Firefighters John J. Connor, Ryan Connor, Pawel Grodzki, Thomas J. Salmon, Ralph A. Tiscione and William J. Lynch.

The firefighters are using their own money for air fare and rooms. After the celebration, there will be a get-together in one of the stadium’s conference rooms.

Just this week, the firefighters learned they will also be able to attend the game. District Chief Gardell said he was told one of the Colts’ offensive guards is giving them his tickets.

“I’m pretty pumped,” District Chief Gardell said.

When one of the Indianapolis fire stations was robbed earlier this year of electronics — including televisions — Colts CEO and owner Jim Irsay stepped up and replenished the stolen items, Lt. Huff said.

A fire had been set as a ruse to empty the station. Authorities said the station was then robbed.