On a February 2011 trip, fun was the furthest thing from 15-year-old Boy Scout Ben Ferreira’s mind, as he watched a man fill up a gas can and snowmobile at a New Hampshire service station.
Mr. Ferreira, who was sitting in his father’s truck, observed the man as he spilled gasoline while filling the can. When the man started the snowmobile, he ignited the fuel and was engulfed in a ball of flames.
“The explosion was so loud, it shook the building,” said Mr. Ferreira.
What followed was some quick thinking on the Rochester teenager’s behalf, which has earned him the prestige of a National Heroism Award from the Boy Scout Council.
When Mr. Ferreira saw that the man was on fire, he jumped out of his father’s truck and ran into the gas station storefront. There, he saw the clerk struggling with the pin on a fire extinguisher. Mr. Ferreira took the extinguisher from the clerk and pulled the pin, ran outside, and quickly put the flames out.
Thanks to his quick action, the man only suffered minor injuries.
Very few scouts are awarded the Heroism Medal, said Rochester Scoutmaster Michael Blanchard, who has been Scoutmaster for Mr. Ferreira’s Pack 31 since 2010. Mr. Blanchard gave some perspective to the exclusive award, saying that only 3,230 Heroism Medals have been issued since the medal’s inception in 1923 – compare that to the 2.1 million Boy Scouts who have obtained the fairly unusual achievement of Eagle Scout.
“There are very few Heroism [medals] awarded,” said Mr. Blanchard, who filed the application for a Heroism Medal after hearing about Mr. Ferreira’s exceptional deed. “He and his whole family – they are absolutely thrilled. I’ve been walking on air since I got the call from [the National Boy Scout Council].”
Mr. Blanchard credits scout training with giving Mr. Ferreira the skill set needed to handle an emergency situation. While the victim struggled to put out the flames and pull the snowmobile away from the gas pumps, Mr. Ferreira pushed him away from the fully engulfed snowmobile and extinguished the flames. His father Dan Ferreira, a Rochester firefighter/EMT and assistant Scoutmaster, helped extinguish flames and assessed injuries on the scene.
“I was very impressed with the way Ben reacted,” said Mr. Ferreira. “He didn’t hesitate. He just did what needed to be done… We’re proud of him. We’re pleased with him and he knows that.”
The process for a Heroism Medal, from nomination to commendation, took six months, Mr. Blanchard said. In addition to a medal, Mr. Ferreira earned a Certificate of Achievement, a knot on his uniform, and a letter from Senator Scott Brown commending him on his deed.
“We’re very appreciative that Mike Blanchard took the time to submit the award and to follow up on it,” said the elder Ferreira. “We don’t know that all scoutmasters would have taken the time to follow through on this. We’re very appreciative that he did.”
Ben Ferreira, a student at Bristol Aggie, intends on following in his dad’s footsteps, to become a firefighter/EMT, with plans to take the EMT exam when he turns 18.
By Anne Kakley