A handful of local first responders will be among the estimated thousands of mourners who attend the funeral of a Worcester, Mass., firefighter who died in the line of duty this week.
About 15 Keene Fire Department personnel and two from the Brattleboro Fire Department planned to pay their respects at this morning’s service.
Christopher Roy, 36, of Shrewsbury, Mass., died Sunday while fighting a five-alarm fire in Worcester.
He was part of a group of firefighters called to a basement fire at a three-story building early that morning, according to a Sunday news release from the Worcester Fire Department. The fire advanced quickly, and five firefighters were evacuated from the building, Worcester Fire Chief Michael Lavoie said in the release. Two firefighters became trapped on the second floor and were pulled from the building, he said. Roy, who was one of those two firefighters, died at the hospital.
The second injured firefighter, whom city officials did not identify, was evaluated at the hospital and released.
Roy, had been with the department for 2½ years and left behind a wife and a 9-year-old daughter.
Keene Fire Chief Mark F. Howard said Friday his department typically sends representatives to funerals of New England firefighters.
“On most line-of-duty-deaths, whether it’s one or a group, especially when it occurs in New England or in New Hampshire, we usually try to go,” he said.
Although Howard said he can’t attend today’s service, he has represented Keene in the past at funerals for fallen emergency personnel. Some of the firefighters who will represent the Keene department today, he said, attended the funerals of the six Worcester firefighters who died in a 1999 warehouse blaze that became one of the deadliest in the region.
Even for those who can’t attend Roy’s funeral, his death left an impression on local first responders, Keene fire Lt. Christopher Staples of Marlborough said Friday.
Staples, who has been a firefighter since 1993, first in Dublin and then in Keene, said Roy’s death sparked thoughts of his own mortality.
“When you see something like that happen, you think about yourself in a similar situation,” he said. “How would you react? What would you do? Would you end up the same way?”
Brattleboro fire Lt. Paul Sherburne said that, though he won’t be attending Roy’s funeral, two firefighters from his department are going.
“(Firefighter fatalities) really hit home. Worcester is really close by,” he said. “It was a fire that absolutely could have happened here.”
He said the possibility of an injury or even death on the job doesn’t cross his mind as he works, especially because he is trained to focus on whatever emergency comes his way, but he sometimes thinks about the inherent risks of his job.
The Brattleboro Fire Department responds to an average of 20 fires per year in the town and surrounding areas, he said, and even the most run-of-the-mill fires have the potential to get out of hand.
Since Roy’s death, the Worcester Fire Department has received an outpouring of support on social media, and a crowdfunding campaign for his family raised more than $11,000 in four days. A fund for his daughter has also been set up at the Worcester Fire Department Credit Union. The GoFundMe page can be found at https://bit.ly/2S0hJHt.
In an advisory to drivers, the Worcester Police Department said it would close the street around the church where Roy’s wake and funeral were set to take place Friday and today, respectively. The advisory estimated that thousands of mourners, including firefighters from all over New England, would attend the services.
CBS Boston reported Friday that upwards of 400 firefighters from all over New England attended the wake.
Roy is the eighth Worcester Fire Department member to die in action since 1999. One firefighter died in a 2011 blaze, in addition to the six who died in the Cold Storage Warehouse fire.
His funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m.