Firefighter Victor Isler
Photo credit: Salisbury Fire Department
Firefighter Justin Monroe
Photo credit: Salisbury Fire Department
SALISBURY, N.C. -- As reality set in on March 8, one day following a massive fire that claimed two of the city's bravest; friends, family and fellow firefighters continued the ongoing grieving process.
Firefighters Victor Isler and Justin Monroe were on the first hose team that responded to the blaze. Several hours later, both were confirmed dead.
Those close to both men shared memories of their heroes following the tragedy that claimed them.
Life Cut Short
Nineteen-year-old Justin Monroe was described by members of the Miller's Ferry Volunteer Fire Department as someone who was always smiling.
Monroe was hired by the Salisbury Fire Department on a part-time basis last October, but had continued to be active at Miller's Ferry. He also held a part-time paid position at the Spencer Fire Department and was enrolled as full-time student in the fire science program at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte.
When asked how often he was at the department after taking on the other jobs and attending school, the group of firefighters said in unison: "Everyday."
Monroe first joined the department's junior program at the age of 14. He climbed up the ranks within the department and gained the title of lieutenant last April.
Miller's Ferry's members said all he ever wanted to do was be a firefighter.
Safety Officer Todd Kidd said Salisbury first hired firefighters on a part-time basis and then moved them up from there, something Monroe was well on his way to.
"He was going to be a firefighter somewhere, whether it was at Salisbury or somewhere else," he said.
"Where ever he could fight fires, he would be there fighting them," Firefighter Rusty Smith chimed in.
Kidd said that whenever the department was short on help, he would fill in where needed and had held just about every position within the department.
"He was the head of the department, you could say."
Josh Fox, who is only a year older than Monroe, had a very close relationship with his fallen comrade.
He was just coming out of the juniors program as Justin was going in.
Fox's father, Bobby, is the chief of the department and is also a captain with Salisbury. Kidd said both Victor Isler and Monroe were assigned to his command, according to Kidd.
"He knew what he was doing. He was very trustful, a really good guy," he said. "If we weren't running calls, he was here with us playing football or paintball."
Fox said that Monroe's passion, next to firefighting, was the outdoors. "Hunting and fishing was his life," he said. "If he wasn't here, he was out there."
Following the tragedy, Miller's Ferry was flooded with support from not only those in their community and the surrounding towns and cities in the state, but from people all over the world.
Fox said he wanted to thank everyone who has sent the department e-mails voicing their sympathies to the department's loss and all of the surrounding departments that offered aid in the hours following Monroe's death.
While the heartfelt actions and gestures won't bring back his friend, they'll serve in honor of what he was: a firefighter.
New Chapter, Tragic Ending
Last summer, Victor Isler moved his family to Harrisburg, N.C. from New York to become a firefighter with the Salisbury Fire Department.
It was something he pursued with long-time friend Chris DeMatto, who also moved to the area from New York.
Both men where members of the Deer Park Volunteer Fire Department, where Isler was a paramedic.
On Saturday, March 8, one day after the fire, Chris' wife, Kelly gave birth to a baby boy. The couple named their son Nicholas Victor DeMatto, in honor of his close friend and fellow firefighter.
The former FDNY paramedic wasn't in the city long, but quickly made a positive impression on those he came in contact with.
"Never met a guy like him before ... He gave everything he had to this department. He was a type of father figure to us," Firefighter Chris Haynes said. "If you were having a bad day, you were not going to have one for long."
Captain Buddy Miller appeared very emotional as he was the first to find Isler's body in the debris of the fire.
On moving on without Isler he said, "We're going to crawl on that truck and we're going to go, and Vic's going to be right there next to us."
Isler, 40, not only served as a paramedic with Deer Park in New York, but aslo worked as a paramedic with the FDNY
Isler is survived by his wife Tracy and their 15-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter.
Memorial funds for the families of Firefigher Monroe and Isler have been setup at the Salisbury and Harrisburg locations of the Bank of North Carolina:
415 Jake Alexander Blvd W
Salisbury, NC 28147
Phone: (704) 633-3436
Fax: (704) 647-0951
3890 Main Street
Harrisburg, NC 28075
Phone: (704) 455-1070
Fax: (704) 455-1260
Donations in Firefighter Justin Monroe's name can be made out to:Shriners Hospitals for Children - Greenville