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PEPPERELL — Six months ago, dispatcher/firefighter/EMT Justin Zink received Nashoba Publishing’s Extraordinary Service Award, nominated by his peers for his work ethic and outstanding handling of two major emergencies — a gas main leak on Nashua Road and a Townsend Street house fire that brought equipment from 14 communities to town.

Good fortune again came his way this month — and with it well-intentioned ribbing from police and firefighters — when he was named Firefighter of the Year at the Fire Department’s annual Christmas party, again for his seemingly endless energy despite considerable extra shift duty in the understaffed Communications Department.

In presenting the award, Deputy Fire Chief Peter Shattuck said, “This year it was very hard to chose. They (firefighters) go above and beyond. They change their life and change their schedules (to respond). The Board of Fire Engineers respects this man for all he’s done.”

Deputy Chief Jonathan Kinney said, “Once in a while a young man steps up with extra interest and ability. If I could be half the person I’d be happy.”

Zink had replied, “I can’t really say much. I have a brother, Nathan, who is also in the department. I love you guys. Thanks very much.”

Later, speaking between calls in the Communications Center, Zink deferred to the efforts of his peers.

“It was a total surprise because of the caliber of people on the department. I could think of so many others (for the award) and I did,” he said.

“Honestly, everyone works so hard toward the same goal. (Training specialist) Derek Franzek is the best. He makes everyone around him better,” Zink said. “He and (firefighter) Shaun Shattuck went to Firefighter I and II training at the Fire Academy. Derek met some training officers and blossomed. He devoted so much of his personal time. Shaun’s another one.

“Then there is (Fire captain) Mike Blood, who’s had a kid and runs a business and then an entire fire company (Engine Company, or Company One). He planned Den’s funeral (the late well-loved firefighter/systems administrator Den Connors). He and I ran the recent Fire Safety Day and he does the S.A.F.E. (Student Awareness of Fire Emergency) Program.”

Zink, the son of David and Nancy Zink, has been a dispatcher for a little more than three years and was an auxiliary police officer before becoming a firefighter. A Westford native, his family moved to Pepperell when he was in third grade. He took EMT classes so that he could better direct ambulance calls as a dispatcher.

“That’s the reason I want to be here. I do it because you do the right thing,” he said. “You can’t buy that chance.”

While taking EMT classes, “I met some of the guys,” Zink said. “The people who really got me into (firefighting) were those in Company One. Their level of professionalism and dedication impressed me. They have a great captain,” he said.

He carries a basic EMT license. He admires colleagues Ben Simmons, Curtis Triehy and Al Deshler, who recently completed top-level paramedic training at their own expense.

EMS Company Capt. Jean Taubert said when Zink received the Extraordinary Service Award, “Every once in a while you get someone who wants to do the job and do it right. He’s one of those guys.”

Shattuck agreed.

“He jumps in with both feet and takes on anything and everything,” Shattuck said. “He took his EMT classes with ease. He’s learning the trucks right now,” he said.

Being a firefighter helps Zink feel more involved and provides him with a better feel for what’s happening outside the communications center.

“The flip side of dispatch duty is that you want to do something but you’re stuck there. It’s pretty crazy. You make all those calls to get to the scene, you listen to Police and Fire radio, plus watch the station-to-station coverage,” he said.

“You plan ahead to think what the next call could be, (but also) handle the day-to-day calls to maintain the level of service. Hopefully, the dispatcher is thinking ahead enough so when there’s a need it’s a phone call away.”

Everything boils down to the basic reason all responders work.

“It comes down to you want to help everyone,” he said.

“My brother got onto the department two months before me. I have a small family, my parents, my brother and I.

“I thought I was just joining a department. Now I feel I have 65 brothers and sisters,” he said.