The teenagers, who are volunteers with the Port Jefferson Fire Department, responded to a call for a structure fire at their classmate's house.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 30, 2022. It has since been updated.
A group of high schoolers in Long Island, New York, traded their graduation robes for firefighter gear when a fire broke out near their school. The Port Jefferson High School students had just walked across the stage to receive their diplomas and were taking photos with their families after the ceremony when they were alerted to a nearby fire. Immediately, the teens—identified by their principal, Eric Haruthunian, as Ryan Parmegiani, Kasumi Layne-Stasik, Hunter Volpi, Andrew Patterson, Shane Hartig and Peter Rizzo—dropped what they were doing and rushed to the Port Jefferson Fire Department firehouse to help with the fire.
According to Good Morning America, the youngsters—who were all said to be either 17 or 18 years old—volunteered with the Port Jefferson Fire Department. "We were still in our gowns and we still had our diplomas with us and we stripped off our gowns. I didn't even realize I still had my tie on," said Rizzo, 17. What made their heroic actions that day even more special was the fact that the students—two of them riding in the first engine to the scene and the other four on a ladder truck—responded to a call for a structure fire at one of their classmates' homes. Port Jefferson fire chief Christian Neubert revealed that the classmate was also just returning home from the graduation ceremony.
"Port Jefferson is a very small community," Neubert said. "You know that saying, 'it takes a village?' This is that place." In a Facebook post commending the young volunteers, the fire department wrote: "Last evening PJFD responded to a garage fire on Arlington Avenue just after 7:30. Six of the firefighters that responded had just completed their graduation from Port Jefferson School District. In the midst of taking pictures with their families, they responded to the firehouse to handle the alarm."
"This year PJFD had 8 total members graduate from Port Jefferson High School. They have each shown tremendous dedication to the Department and community. We are very proud of them and wish them well as they move on to college in the fall," the post continued, adding that the fire was quickly extinguished without anyone getting injured or the flames spreading to any other structures. Speaking to Newsday, Neubert revealed that most of the six high schoolers joined the fire department’s junior volunteer program at age 14. They've reportedly been "full-fledged" volunteers for around a year to a year and a half now after undergoing intense training.
#PortJefferson only gets about two fires all year, fire officials say; for one to coincide with high school graduation is bizarre. https://t.co/HTEIy6gsZo— Carl MacGowan (@CarlMacGowan) June 28, 2022
"But you don’t know how somebody is going to perform until they’re actually out there doing it," Neubert said. "I'm incredibly proud of them." Despite their graduation day taking an unexpected turn, the students said it still turned out to be 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," shared 18-year-old Parmegiani. Many on Facebook praised the teenagers for stepping up the way they did when the situation called for it.
"I attended the graduation ceremony to see a friend's daughter receive her diploma. I was so impressed by the number of graduates who included 'PJFD volunteer' in their walk-up descriptions. We heard the alarm go off and thought it might have been in salute to all the junior volunteers. Knowing now that it was a fire and that they responded I am even more impressed and feel like this village is in great hands if and when needed. Thank you to all PJFD volunteers and those young men and women who have taken it upon themselves to continue this exceptional legacy," commented Lauren Sheprow. "Wow. What a testament to these kids and their motivation to serve. Ordinary kids doing extraordinary heroic work. What a bright future for them! They make PJ proud," wrote Jennifer Kreitner Testa.