Philadelphia Firefighter of the Year Sean Dugan (ʼ05) wants people to know that “the world is a beautiful place.” His recognition from the Philadelphia Fire Department, given during an Oct. 7 ceremony, comes after he rescued a young child from a flaming, smoking vehicle in May.
The Cabrini graduate was off-duty one day this past spring when he pulled up to a traffic light with his wife, Sylvia Diantedosi (ʼ04) and daughter in the car and noticed a recent car accident on an adjacent road. Dugan parked his own vehicle, and as he approached the wreck, he heard a distraught mother cry out for her youngest child, still strapped into the backseat. Dugan had seen similar scenes and acted quickly.
“From watching movies, people think the car is going to explode, but I knew I had some time,” Dugan recalled, knowing that the child, then 11 months old, was not yet taking on dangerous heat or smoke.
After he pulled the infant from the car to safety, two teenagers retrieved a fire extinguisher from a nearby establishment and Dugan used it to put out the flames in the engine block. High-fives and cheers replaced screams and worried looks as all parties gathered around the scene safely.
“The world is a beautiful place,” Dugan said. “What is portrayed in the news is not what happens in my day-to-day. I want the world to know that beautiful stuff is going on every day.”
After exchanging contact information with bystanders, word of the rescue made it back to Dugan’s captain, who nominated him for the Firefighter of the Year award. Dugan is also due to be promoted to lieutenant on Nov. 30.
Dugan grew up in the Fishtown and Port Richmond neighborhoods of Philadelphia, before coming to Cabrini as a liberal arts student and soccer player. Now a Montgomery County resident who serves in Engine 68 out of southwest Philadelphia, he also works as a strength and conditioning coach at Roman Catholic High School.
“My life became a lot easier when I realized it’s about helping others,” he said.
Shortly after the rescue in May, Dugan hosted a pizza party for the family of the child he saved from the flaming wreck, and they have remained in touch since then.
“God puts you in people’s lives for a moment, a season, or a lifetime,” he said.