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Oct 4, 2017 10:46 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village Firefighter Receives Silver Medal of Valor

Southampton Firefighter Christopher Capalbo was recently presented with the Silver Medal of Valor. DANA SHAW
Oct 10, 2017 10:50 AM

A Southampton Fire Department volunteer recently was awarded the second-highest honor a firefighter can receive after he saved a colleague from being severely burned while they fought a fire in Southampton Village in 2016.

Christopher Capalbo, 46, of North Sea, a 17-year-veteran of the Southampton Fire Department based in the village, was awarded the Silver Medal of Valor on September 24 at the Smithtown Firehouse.

“It represents something we all would do for each other,” he said on Monday. “We’re 
like brothers.”

On January 21, 2016, a fire broke out at the Padgett Temple on North Magee Street in Southampton, the result of a malfunctioning portable heater. The blaze caused extensive fire and smoke damage and took nearly 30 minutes to extinguish.

One firefighter from the Southampton Fire Department, Jason Poremba, fell through the weakened floor of the church and partway into the basement of the structure after entering the building to help put out the flames.

Mr. Capalbo said the firefighter’s legs were beginning to burn and his protective gear was becoming compromised by the flames below. As Mr. Capalbo started pulling Mr. Poremba out of the hole, the department’s hose team began putting water on the his legs. Once he was freed, Mr. Capalbo said he picked Mr. Poremba up and handed him out of the church through a broken window, and other firefighters pulled him out.

Mr. Poremba was taken to Southampton Hospital where he was treated for his injuries.

As for Mr. Capalbo, he said he was just doing his job.

Originally hailing from Queens, Mr. Capalbo served eight years in the U.S. Army, where he said he learned to appreciate the concepts of camaraderie and brotherhood. After serving his time, he moved to Southampton because a good friend of his from the service, Allan Press, told him it was a great place to live.

Today, Mr. Capalbo works at the Tuckahoe School doing maintenance.

At the time of the fire, Mr. Capalbo was a captain, but now says he is an “ex-captain.”

“Chris is an ex-captain who is always there for the department,” Southampton Fire Department Chief Chris Brenner said on Tuesday. “He is a true leader and a person we can always lean on for help. I am proud, as chief of the department, to say one of our members received a Silver Medal of Valor.

“Chris is a person who never is looking for recognition but deserves it,” he added.

Southampton Village Board member Richard Yastrzemski said Mr. Capalbo’s is evidence of the dedication and training that each of the members of the fire department go through.

“I’m proud,” Mr. Yastrzemski said. “That’s an example of the dedication they have. When the real deal happens, their training kicks in. They really perform well as a team.”

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