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Firefighters Museum Honors Bravest

More than 500 people including firefighters, politicians and community members attended the Francis X. Pendl Nassau County Firefighters Museum and Education Center in Garden city for its annual Badge of Courage Dinner.

This year’s honorees were two firefighters and one teacher. Joseph Mottola, firefighter and architect from Massapequa received the firefighter’s leadership award; Paul Napoli firefighter from Oceanside received the Francis X. Pendl Firefighters award; and Mineola resident and Great Neck School District Teacher Paul Ziring received the firefighter’s Humanitarian award.

Alana Petrocelli, executive director, explained how the event originally started as a fundraiser for the museum which was built in 2006 and has grown over the years.

“The children’s museum is all interactive, fire education, fire prevention,” said Petrocelli. “We teach them about fire prevention in a fun way. In this section which looks like your house, everything theatrically goes on fire, but it teaches children about fire safety. Then when they go home, they are going to ask their parents, “Do we have a smoke detector, do we have an escape plan?” and those are important things for them to know and for parents to be reminded that you need to do those things with your children.”

One of the honorees who understands this concept is Paul Ziring, who is the Special Education Outdoor Coordinator and teacher for grades K through 12 in Great Neck.

“I was fascinated with the museum and I knew it would be good for the kids I work with, kindergarten through 20 years old, all with special needs varying from MR, CP, autistic,” he said. “I thought this would be great for them. They need to know fire safety, they need to know how to be safe, how to get out of a house, how to do the proper things, and save their own life.”

Another outstanding honoree is Massapequa resident, Joseph Mottola, an architect and VP of H2M architects who works with the firehouses designing them in Nassau County.

“I get the best of both worlds, I have been a fireman for 32 years and I am doing what I love,” he said. “From the time I was a little boy I fell in love with the fire department. I joined the Seaford fire department when I was 18 and I spent 10 years there and I have spent the last 22 in Massapequa. I was thrilled and surprised when I was honored. The fire service has been very good to me both personally and professionally. Being part of the museum is my way of giving back to the fire service.”

The last honoree Paul Napoli, has had an impressive 30 year career with the fire department. In 1981 he joined the Nassau County Police Department as an Ambulance Medical Technician and rose through the ranks as a supervisor and was responsible for all EMS training for members of the Nassau County Police Department as well as providing EMS training for the fire service within the county. He was also one of the founders of the Nassau County Firefighters Burn Center Foundation established in 1991 and dedicated to the advancement of burn care, research, prevention and education and proper treatment of burns. When asked about his award he had this comment,

“We decided to establish a burn center foundation where we could augment the cost of the burn center and we have been very successful in raising almost $5 million,” he said. “We saw a need. We were giving our money to the NYC burn center which is another worthwhile cause but none of us were going in the city so we decided to give the money to Nassau County. The burn center is located at NUMC medical center in East Meadow.”

Nassau County Exectuvie Ed Mangano was in attendance, as was former executive Tom Suozzi. Mangano said the event was a culmination of the daily appreciation all community members should express to firefighters.

“We want to honor our firefighters and this is a wonderful opportunity to do this and if you tour the museum, not only does it pay homage to the great work that our volunteers do day in and day out it also serves as an educational center to help our youth understand what to do and how to approach a fire should they encounter one,” he said. “We have three great honorees who have certainly distinguished themselves and it’s an honor to join with them this evening.”

To learn more about the Nassau County Firefighter’s Museum go to or call 516-572-4177. The Museum is located at One Davis Ave., Garden City, next to the Cradle of Aviation.