Massachusetts Fire Chief Collapses, Dies Battling Blaze

A western Massachusetts fire chief has died after collapsing while battling a 2-alarm blaze early Wednesday morning.

Montgomery Fire Chief Stephen P. Frye was fighting a fire on Southampton Road in Montgomery when he collapsed and was taken by paramedics to Bay State Noble Hospital in Westfield, where he was pronounced dead, according to the state Fire Marshal's office.

Frye, 59, had been a member of the volunteer Montgomery Fire Department since 1993 and chief for about 13 years. He is survived by a wife, an adult son and adult daughter, all of whom live in town. His son is also a member of the fire department and had responded to the fire where his father collapsed.

"This is a small tight knit community and the fire department is like a second family to its members," State Fire marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said. "I offer heartfelt condolences to the Frye family and the Montgomery and area fire departments on this devastating loss."

"I am heartbroken to hear of the tragic loss of Chief Stephen P. Frye," Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday on Twitter. "My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the Montgomery Fire Department. MA is grateful for the service of the firefighters who rise to the occasion every day to keep our residents and communities safe."

This is the second fire-related firefighter death this year. Watertown Firefighter Joseph Toscano died fighting a house fire on March 17. Western Massachusetts had not lost a firefighter in a fire since 2010 in Otis and 1999 in Russell.

Mutual aid from a dozen area police and fire departments were called to the fire, which started around 11 p.m. Tuesday and was first reported as a chimney fire, according to the state fire officials.

It's unclear how many people were inside the home when the fire started, but the fire officials say they were alerted by smoke alarms and were able to escape unharmed. 

WWLP-TV reports that it took firefighters about 90 minutes for crews to knock down the flames due to a lack of a water supply and hydrant systems.

Fire officials say the home is a total loss.

The cause of the fire has been determined to be an accidental chimney fire, the state fire marshal's office said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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