Hazen Union Student Commended by Governor Scott for Rescue Work During 2023 Floods

Bravery can quickly surface in a swift-water rescue during a once-in-a-thousand-year flood. Work ethic can be illuminated in a part-time job maintaining school facilities at a rural elementary school. And both can be found in spades in Hazen Union senior Steven Princ, Jr., who was recently recognized, along with fellow firefighters, by Governor Phil Scott for “lighting the way and being a ray of kindness and goodwill.”

Princ, who has been working for Wolcott Elementary School part-time as a custodian for about three years, also makes time outside of his studies at Hazen to volunteer with the Wolcott Volunteer Fire Department. And in July 2023, he got a call that changed his life. Unrelenting rains were wreaking havoc on the region, causing the Lamoille River and smaller tributaries and streams to jump their banks, and entire chunks of hillsides to slide into the valleys. People were trapped in cars in the raging water, unable to escape homes devastated by mudslides, and the Wolcott Volunteer Fire Department was their lifeline. “We had about 16 calls that first night. It was a long 22 hours straight of rescue,” commented Princ.

On a more routine night, the fire department might have been able to rely on the nearby Elmore or Stowe Fire Departments for assistance in the technical cold water rescues, but the floods were so consuming, Princ said, “We were all on our own islands and just had to do what we had to do.”

Princ’s supervisor at Wolcott Elementary, Phil Cardinal, said that the rescuers that night were tying each other off and going into the waters with the potential of losing each other. “So yes. Steven absolutely risked his life.”

Cardinal credits some of Princ’s qualities such as his work ethic, care for his neighbors, and sense of responsibility to the community that he grew up in. Princ attended Wolcott Elementary for his primary education before moving on to Hazen Union. “I think a community and school that raises a child like Steven has a lot to be proud of,” stated Cardinal. It seems, the governor’s office concurred.

After graduation, Princ is considering either a career in law enforcement or obtaining his commercial driver’s license or CDL, setting him up for a career in truck driving. Whichever path he chooses, Princ will undoubtedly be able to draw on his experiences during the floods of 2023 to continue to “light the way” and “be a ray of kindness and goodwill” for those he encounters on the road, and for his chosen community.