Holly Fortier Killeen and her 3-year-old son, Nolan, donated two high-tech McJon Extrication blankets to the West Hartford Fire Department on Tuesday.
By Ronni Newton
Dressed in pint-sized turnout gear, 3-year-old resident Nolan Killeen was on a very important mission Tuesday morning – one that will have a significant impact on the West Hartford Fire Department with potentially life-saving implications.
Nolan was joined by his parents, Holly Fortier Killeen and Tom Killeen, at Station No. 2 on Tuesday morning, as he presented two McJon Extrication blankets to West Hartford Fire Chief Greg Priest and firefighter Ryan Shea, surrounded by representatives of all five West Hartford fire stations and Mayor Shari Cantor.
Holly Killeen, who was born and raised in West Hartford and still lives in town, said that her parents, Ray and Dottie Fortier, installed in her the importance of giving back to the community. And after her brother, Pete Fortier, was tragically killed by a distracted driver, she said her family gained a much greater appreciation for first responders.
Nolan, who never got to know his uncle, has been growing up visiting firehouses – learning about the equipment, playing basketball, and forming a special bond with many of the West Hartford firefighters who definitely fill that “uncle” role. All of the firefighters he has met “have touched his heart,” Holly told the group gathered at Station No. 2.
When he has a tough day at preschool, Holly said she brings him by the firehouse, and they tell him “to be courageous and brave,” and that puts a smile on his face.
“As we begin to teach him the importance of giving back, this was the perfect fit,” Holly said.
The McJon Extrication blanket, which is constructed of fire-resistant Nomex and cut-resistant Kevlar – protects victims who must be extricated from broken glass, jagged metal, and temperatures up to 900ºF. In addition to vehicle extractions, it can be used in rescues from structural collapse, and for victim transport.
The West Hartford Fire Department did not previously have any McJon Extrication blankets, which cost about $700 each. They now have two, and Holly said she hopes to be able to ultimately outfit all five stations with the equipment.
“We’re just extremely grateful,” Holly said, for being able to experience “what the old-town fire house means … with role models and heroes … it truly reflects when you walk into the station.”
Cantor also thanked the family, noting how important it is that the Killeens are so moved by the amazing work the fire department does. She said the firefighters truly are heroes to all of us.
“Thank you to the Killeen family for being so generous, so involved, so attached, and understanding of those personal relationships … and taking a tragedy and making it something meaningful and special,” Cantor said. “This is an incredibly uplifting moment.”
“The Killeen donation of extrication blankets is a perfect time to remind our community that the fire service is expected to, and prepared for, all types of emergencies,” Priest said.
“The West Hartford Fire Department has and is trained to use a full complement of rescue and extrication tools to ensure a high level of service is being provided. We are fortunate to be well-supported by our policy makers in most budgetary areas, however, there are certainly many areas where the outstanding generosity of our residents is truly welcomed. In this case, I’m humbled that the Killeen family desired to recognize our first responders by trying to get the best equipment into our hands.
“Patients requiring extrication are likely to be both frightened and injured while experiencing loud and austere conditions. Through the efforts of our personnel, including the ability of our paramedic-trained personnel to be inside hazardous areas to treat the patient, and now with a specially designed blanket, West Hartford Fire will be able to provide for the highest level of protection and comfort to victims during extrications,” Priest said.
On behalf of the fire department and the town, Priest said that he is very appreciative of the Killeen family’s donation of the McJon Extrication blankets.
Nolan posed with the firefighters, and then provided a guided tour of Engine No. 2, pointing out various pieces of equipment and under Shea’s guidance carefully examining a special tool used in extrications.
When asked if he wanted to be a firefighter when he grows up, without hesitation Nolan said, “Of course!”
Holly said he was born on 9/11. “Maybe it was meant to be,” she added.
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