During the morning of Dec. 30, 2011, Riverhead resident Brian Cybulski not only tried to save the life of his employer, John Romanelli — he put out a fuel fire that could have lead to an even bigger tragedy on the grounds of Burt’s Reliable fuel company in Southold.
For his selfless actions, the Suffolk County Vocational, Education and Extension Board announced Wednesday that Cybulski, a lieutenant in the Riverhead Fire Department, will be awarded the Extension Board’s Bronze Medal of Valor.
Romanelli, the president of Burt's Reliable, died at the age of 47 on Jan. 3 after he was badly burnt in the late December fire, which authorities said was caused after a fuel hose from a bio-diesel fuel truck ruptured and sprayed a heat source that Romanelli was using to thaw a frozen valve.
According to a statement sent to Patch from Richard Stockinger, executive director of the Suffolk County Fire Academy, Cybulski had reported to his job as usual that morning, and as he was preparing the day’s delivery schedule, he noticed two tanker trucks, one carrying diesel fuel and the other carrying bio-diesel fuel, back up to the loading racks to offload their product.
The driver of the bio-diesel truck came into the office looking for assistance because the offloading pipe was frozen. Shortly after the driver left the office, Cybulski saw a large fireball erupted that engulfed the rear of the two tanker trucks and the loading dock.
As he ran out the door, he saw Romanelli covered in flames, moving towards the front of the tankers. Cybulski got Romanelli to the ground and removed his own sweatshirt, attempting to extinguish the flames.
Cybulski then retrieved a fire extinguisher from the nearest vehicle, and, seeing that Romanelli was being attended to by another employee, turned his attention to the fire under the two tanker trucks. With the help of another employee, they were able to extinguish the fire.
Cybulski is being honored "for his heroic actions under unusual personal risk," Stockinger said in the statement.
Riverhead Patch has just commenced a series honoring generations of Riverhead firefighters, who have dedicated years of service and displayed heroism and courage to keep the community safe.
For more information on events related to this past winter's tragic fuel fire in Southold:
Burt's Reliable President in Critical Condition After Fuel Fire
Hundreds Say Goodbye to Romanelli
Community Pays Tribute To Romanelli
Dart's Tree Farm Launches 'Comet for John' Tribute
Cross Sound Ferry Donates $14K to Eastern Long Island Hospital