Each year, the Lowell Area Fire Department recognizes one new member who has gone above and beyond in their commitment to the community and their fellow firefighters. At its year-end banquet, Dan Rybiski was the latest person selected for the honor.
“I was surprised,” Rybiski admits.
As someone who likes to keep a low profile, he’s not looking for attention or accolades. But Fire Chief Shannon Witherell says Rybiski has distinguished himself by a willingness to help the department however needed, including volunteering for the recently formed Honor Guard.
Rookie of the Year: New Members Who Go Above and Beyond
Witherell says the Rookie of the Year honor typically goes to someone who has been with the department for two years or less. Rybiski has been with LAFD for two years, but he’s not brand new to firefighting.
He previously served at another area department for 4.5 years before coming to LAFD. The change served to reinforce his desire to serve others.
“Coming to Lowell has rejuvenated that sense of purpose,” Rybiski explains. “There is a sense of family with the Lowell fire department that isn’t comparable to anything else you do.”
While his grandfather was a firefighter in Freeport, Rybiski says that didn’t necessarily play into his decision to enter the profession. “I was looking for a sense of purpose [where] I would help people,” he shares. That desire to serve is what led him to become a firefighter.
As a firefighter/EMT, he is trained to help the community in a variety of crisis situations. But he also wanted to serve his fellow firefighters, and for that, he joined the LAFD Honor Guard.
“A lot of what the Honor Guard represents is serving our brotherhood on top of the community,” Rybiski says. In addition to marching in parades and being present at community activities, the Honor Guard is called upon to represent the department at the funerals of current and retired firefighters.
Biggest Challenge: Juggling Multiple Responsibilities
Like many paid on-call firefighters, Rybiski says the biggest challenge is juggling his other work and family obligations with the need to respond to calls, which can come in at all hours of the day.
“It’s balancing family life with work life with firefighting life,” he explains. “All of us juggle a lot of different hats.” The 34-year-old works as a carpenter, and he and his girlfriend Emily have a son together with another baby on the way. He also has an older son, and outside of firefighting, Rybiski notes one of the activities he enjoys is coaching his son’s sports teams.
Still, working with LAFD is worth the sacrifices and trade-offs that must inevitably be made. “You get to help people on what could be their worst day,” he says.
Not everyone gets to make that type of meaningful difference in the lives of others. Coupled with the camaraderie of the LAFD members, Rybiski says there is something special about being a firefighter in Lowell.
And LAFD leadership thinks there is a something special about Rybiski too. As the Rookie of the Year, they recognize he has made invaluable contributions to the department, and they look forward to working with him for years to come.
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