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Massachusetts park rangers win Never Quit award for heroic response to State House fire

From left): Stephen Reimer, Charlie Chouinard, Rob Pantaleo and Wayne Diskin. Photo by John Killoy, Council 93.
Massachusetts park rangers win Never Quit award for heroic response to State House fire
By Pablo Ros ·

Earlier that day – Tuesday, July 18 – there had been a false fire alarm at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. A few hours later, when the alarm went off again, many who work in the government building stayed put, assuming there was no danger.

But this time, the fire was real.

Massachusetts Park Rangers Charlie Chouinard and Rob Pantaleo were having lunch together when news of the second fire alarm came through a radio call. Chouinard and Pantaleo work at the State House – they’re in charge of building security, making sure that anyone who enters goes through a metal detector and is screened for weapons and other banned items.

Pantaleo answered the radio call and the two headed back to the State House to evacuate the building. They began on the first floor and made their way up, going into every room and asking people to leave. By the time Chouinard went into a restroom on the second floor, he could see the smoke through the vents.

“It was pretty faint, but it was starting to become noticeable at this point,” Chouinard recalls.

“There was a smell, a strong odor going throughout the building,” Pantaleo says.

Park Ranger Wayne Diskin joined Chouinard and Pantaleo in their efforts to evacuate the State House while fellow Park Ranger Stephen Reimer assisted them from the operations base. While the fire department worked to locate the source of the fire, which turned out to be electrical, the rangers went from floor to floor – there are five total – alerting everyone to the threat.

“There were many people who did not seem to realize the severity of the situation,” Chouinard says. “There were elected officials in the building who did not seem to know what was going on. I found an older woman who was adamant that she was going to wait, and I had to escort her out. In another part of the building there was a person on a Zoom call wearing headphones who was startled when I told him there was a fire.”

As carbon monoxide spread throughout the building, the rangers sprinted up and down the stairs to get everyone out. Altogether, it took them 30 to 40 minutes until they could be sure no one was left inside.

“By the time we exited, I was feeling dizzy and lightheaded,” Pantaleo says, probably from a mixture of adrenaline and carbon monoxide poisoning. “I went over and got checked out by the paramedics.”

For their heroic actions that day, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) commended the four rangers with its Outstanding Achievement Award, thanking them for being “one of the last to leave the building, keeping the health and safety of others as his main priority,” and citing their “calm demeanor under pressure and quick response.”

Every day, Chouinard, Pantaleo, Diskin and Reimer help keep their community safe. But on this particular day, they faced an extraordinary challenge and responded heroically, putting their own safety on the line for the sake of others.

Know a co-worker who goes the extra mile to make their community better?

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