UPDATE: Candlelight Vigil for Fallen Firefighter
1/22/2013 (Updated 1/23/2013 10:03:21 PM)(Source: Kate Thornton, Jeremy Donovan)
TIOGA COUNTY-- A fire claimed the life of 34-year old Matthew Porcari and injured Lieutenant Daniel Gavin from the Owego Fire Department Monday night while battling a fire.
Around 10:45 Monday night, Newark Valley Fire Department was called to a structure fire at 871 Chamberlain Road in Newark Valley.
Deputy Fire Coordinator Frank Okrasimski said the high winds allowed for the flames to spread quickly. Five other fire companies including Owego, Berkshire, Campville, Maine, and Union Center as well as Berkshire EMS responded to the scene.
Past Newark Valley Chief Cliff Alexander said about 20 minutes into the operation, a two man team, Porcari and Gavin, entered the home.
"They entered the first floor and the floor gave way," said Owego Deputy Fire Chief Bob Williams.
Williams said Porcari fell fully into the basement while Gavin only fell partly into the basement.
"Lt. Gavin was able to extricate himself. Efforts to rescue Captain Porcari was initially unsuccessful. Subsequently, additional firefighters entered the residence and were able to extricate Porcari," said Williams.
According to Williams Berkshire EMS treated Porcari and Gavin before they were both transported by ambulance to Wilson Hospital in Johnson City. Porcari was then pronounced dead at the hospital.
Lt. Gavin was transferred to Upstate Medical in Syracuse with non-life threatening injuries. The latest is that Gavin has been released as of Tuesday evening and reported on his way back to Owego. Gavin's father, also an Owego Fireman was killed in the line of duty in 2003.
Porcari is best described as loving husband and father, a great bowler and coach, but he will forever be known as something greater in the Owego community. A hero.
"Everybody loved Matt, everyone knew him. He was well liked in this community, and grew up here on the flats. We're called the flat rats, and he'll be forever in our hearts," said Porcari's uncle Lee Dunham.
Dunham is also a Lieutenant for the Owego Fire Department and was at the scene of the fire with his nephew. Dunham was driving the water truck.
"And after I dumped my water, then I heard that there was men down, and we had to sound the evacuation horn. We did that and we didn't know who the firefighters were... Then chief Jim Morris told me it was Matty my nephew. I hit me hard, it hit me hard," said Dunham.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
The owners of the home were home when the call was made, but were outside to meet the fire departments unharmed.
Tuesday night, the community gathered in a candlelight vigil to remember Porcari.
"Everyone's feeling an emptiness tonight where ever they may be serving their communities," said Dave Radigan, 2nd Asst. Chief, Southside Fire Department.
Hundreds gathered at the fireman statue behind the Owego Courthouse tonight to show their support for his family and friends despite the bitter cold.
"The fact that it's only five degrees outside tonight really doesn't matter to any of us," Radigan said. "We would be here whether it was sunny and 70 or cold, dark, and five below."
Songs, memories, and tears were shared in memory of Porcari. But it wasn't just those that knew him best. Some didn't know him at all, but they all share a common bond.
"Doesn't matter what society or what group you're in, once you're in you feel like a brotherhood," said Kerri Hamilton of the Chenango Bridge Fire Department.
"It hurts the Owego Fire Department just as much as it hurts Newark Valley and all the other departments in Tioga and Broome Counties and all across the state," Radigan said.
He says that when any fire department suffers a tragedy, it creates a ripple effect felt throughout the entire fraternity. Just as it did last month after the shootings in Webster, NY.
It's a bond that stands the test of time, even after you're gone.
"Matt will be missed, he served his community well, and the rest of us will take it from here," Radigan said.
"God bless you and your family. Everbody's going to be there for you no matter what," said Hamilton.
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