Acts of Kindness
Teens leave graduation and spring into action to fight fire at fellow student’s home
"Port Jefferson is a very small community. You know that saying, 'it takes a village?' This is that place."
D.G. Sciortino
02.02.23

Most students have big plans to celebrate after their graduation ceremony.

But six seniors from Earl L. Vandermeulen High School in Port Jefferson, Long Island fought a fire instead.

The students, who are all 17 and 18, volunteer with the Port Jefferson Fire Department and had to quickly respond to the call of a garage fire.

The firefighters rushed to the firehouse minutes after getting their diplomas still in their caps and gowns.

The students changed into their firefighting uniforms and headed out to the scene of the fire.

Thankfully, the fire department was able to quench the flames quickly.

Earl L. Vandermeulen High School High Principal Eric Haruthunian shouted out his brave students via Twitter.

“Our amazing alumni (by only 20 minutes) sprang into action to help their community. Great job Ryan, Andrew, Shane, Hunter, Kasumi, and Peter,” Haruthunian tweeted.

The students who fought the fire are Ryan Parmegiani, Kasumi Layne-Stasik, Hunter Volpi, Andrew Patterson, Shane Hartig, and Peter Rizzo.

The siren went off around 7:30 p.m. and students thought it was a celebratory siren at first because they had just graduated.

“Apparently, it went off twice. The first one was congratulatory, I didn’t hear that because I was too caught up in the moment and everyone’s throwing their caps up,” Layne-Stasik said.

Thankfully, Rizzo snapped into firefighter mode and rallied his friends to head out.

The group said they sprinted with diplomas in hand.

Rizzo even forgot his tie was still on when responding to the fire.

There were no causalities during the fire, which started in a garage in the back of a house at a classmate’s home who had also graduated.

“Port Jefferson is a very small community,” Port Jefferson Fire Chief Christian Neubert said. “You know that saying, ‘it takes a village?’ This is that place.”

The only damage that was sustained was in the garage.

Deidre Filippi lives next door to the house where the first started.

She said she was grateful to the young students who gave up their celebration to protect the neighborhood.

“I found it to be completely and utterly just a sign of their dedication and commitment of what they signed up for volunteerism and you know put others before themselves,” Filippi said.

Neubert said the students joined the department as junior volunteers when they were 14 and were official volunteers for about a year and a half.

In order to get to become official volunteers, they had to undergo extensive training. The Port Jefferson Fire Department had eight members who graduated that year.

Neubert says he is “incredibly proud of them.”

And the graduates said the interruption of their celebration would make this day more memorable.

“I got more pictures of me at the fire than I did at graduation. But overall I definitely remember it [as] a cool memory and a cool story to be able to tell people,” Parmegiani said.

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By D.G. Sciortino
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D.G. is a contributing writer in Shareably. She's based in Connecticut and can be reached at [email protected]
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