On Monday, Matthias Wirtz, a 22-year veteran firefighter, died from severe injuries that he had received while fighting a house fire in North Haven, Connecticut.
Reports said the fire had been called in at around 1:11 a.m. after witnesses had noticed heavy smoke coming from the back of a three-story building on Quinnipiac Avenue. The fire displaced 13 of the house residents, but none of them were injured.
Fire Chief Paul Januszewski said an ambulance and paramedics had rushed to the scene. As for the displaced residents, the Red Cross is helping seven adults and three children who lived in the house at the time of the incident.
Deputy Chief Scott Bisson said a mayday call for a “firefighter down” was issued during the fire. Wirtz was found unconscious and unresponsive outside the burning building. He received life-saving measures, including CPR and using a defibrillator, until he arrived at Yale New Haven Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“We worked hard to save him, real hard. We made every effort possible,” Januszewski said of Wirtz.
The Connecticut State Police fire unit is currently investigating the incident. Januszewski said the fire departments that had helped in the fire would continue helping his department as members mourn Wirtz’s death.
“Through the course of the day today, those departments will continue to support our department in responding to incidents and to allow our members some time to grieve,” Januszewski said.
Fire officials said an autopsy would be conducted on Wirtz’s body at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Farmington. His funeral will be announced in the coming days.
Mourning for Wirtz
Town residents and firefighters in the state are mourning the loss of Wirtz, and fire departments from around the state have expressed their condolences on social media to North Haven firefighters and Wirtz’s family.
“It’s a tragic loss for the North Haven Fire Department and all of our families,”
Paul Zanuszewski, chief of the North Haven Fire Department
On Monday afternoon, Governor Ned Lamon encouraged people to lower all U.S. and state flags to half-mast to honor Wirtz.
“The passing of North Haven Firefighter Matthias Wirtz is heartbreaking, and we honor his bravery and courage in responding early this morning to a multi-alarm residential fire, where over a dozen people have become displaced,” Lamon said in a press release.
Wirtz, 46, was survived by a wife and a mother. He had spent 22 years working for the department and was one of the members who responded to the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Wirtz started his firefighting career as a volunteer with North Haven’s North East Volunteer Fire Company Number 4 in 1996.
“We spend the better part of our careers working with the fire service conducting fire investigations. Our hearts go out to the NHFD during this tragic time,”
Paul Makuc, state trooper for the Connecticut State Police
According to Januszewski, Wirtz started working for the department at the same time as he did. Wirtz operated a fire truck, and the fire chief said he was excited about being appointed as a driver.
“He was everybody’s friend. He was a great person. He was a great family man,” Januszewski said. “He would do anything for anybody.”
North Haven’s first selectman Michael Freda said Wirtz was a dedicated, well-respected firefighter who always did his job. “We are all still processing this,” he said.
Retired East Haven firefighter Mike Torino said Wirtz was a big part of the New Haven County Firefighters Emerald Society, of which Torino is the manager. Wirtz was the band’s snare drummer and had played with them for 20 years.
“We’re beside ourselves with the loss. Matty was a big part of our band. He’s been with us for 20 years as a member and snare drummer,”
Mike Torino, retired fighter and band manager of the New Haven County Firefighters Emerald Society
“His raspy voice, his large personality and his laugh is, I think, what we’re going to remember the most. He was a very giving, caring person. He’d give you the snare off the front and the shirt off his back,” Torino said.