The longtime chief of the L’Anse Fire Department was named Firefighter of the Year at the 2022 Copper Country Firefighters Tournament Saturday.
Mike Bianco has been a member of the L’Anse Fire Department for 39 years, and has served the past 14 years as chief. He will be retiring from that position at the end of the year, but will remain with the department.
Firefighters also honored those who helped save lives in the apartment explosion and fire on College Avenue March 13th.
Building residents Paul Kovacic and James Zbigniew were heading to bed around 3:15 that morning when they heard the explosion. Smoke began to enter their apartment, and they decided to leave the building. On their way out, they heard residents Albert and Debbie Alguaria calling for help, saying their door was stuck. Kovacic and Zbigniew were able to kick the apartment door in, and help the Alguarias out of the building.
Once outside, police officers were able to guide them away from the quickly-growing fire to a safe location, assisting Debbie Alguaria, who is handicapped.
The firefighters saluted Kovacic and Zbigniew for their quick thinking and bravery, along with Sgt. Jeremy Hill and officer Alan Jurmu of the Houghton City Police Department, Sgt. Haley Bianucci and officer Jennifer Hastreiter of MTU Public Safety, and Sgt. Darick Coponen and officer Kristina Johnson of the Hancock City Police Department.
This year’s tournament was hosted by the Houghton Fire Department.