Gang Mills firefighters are mourning the death of their chief, a man who devoted his entire life to emergency services.
Larry Yonkin, chief of the Forest View-Gang Mills Fire Department, died of a heart attack Saturday. He was 56.
Assistant Fire Chief Dan Dillon said Yonkin died after leading firefighters in one of the most devastating fires the department has fought in recent memory. Firefighters battled flames emblazoned by high winds Friday morning in a house fire that left a Gang Mills woman dead.
"Thirty hours ago, I stood next to this man, running the operations at one of the largest fires that's happened in this community in quite a while, and he never waver-ed," Dillon said.
"He knew what to do and how to give out directions, and everybody that listened to those directions did them without question because they knew they were the right ones."
The Forest View-Gang Mills Fire Department is a volunteer unit of 39 members.
"My heart is in my sneakers right now," Dillon said. "Larry, to this department and to this community, was a consummate professional. He was one of the most important members and leaders this department had ever seen."
Yonkin was a member of the department for more than 30 years, and served in leadership roles for most of that time.
"This department has suffered an enormous loss. No one can fill the shoes that man filled. He just was an extreme wealth of knowledge," Dillon said.
Yonkin lived a life dedicated to fire fighting and emergency response.
Yonkin was responsible for upgrading fire codes and policies within the Town of Erwin to ensure the safety of firefighters and residents of the community, Dillon said.
He also served on the county 911 Committee and was active in the Steuben County and Corning Fire Chiefs Associations, as well as the county Fire Advisory Board.
As an EMS instructor, Yonkin trained thousands of area emergency technicians at every level - from basic first aid to paramedic, Dillon said.
Dillon said Yonkin retired from his job as supervisor of Emergency Response at Sullivan Park, after 35 years of service to Corning Inc.
Yonkin was born into a family of firefighters and first joined the fire service in Dushore, Pa., at age 16, Dillon said. His father, uncles and brother were firefighters also.
Yonkin leaves behind his wife of 36 years, Linda Farrell Yonkin; daughters Karen Hamilton of Monterey and Marianne Butler of Painted Post; son Mark Yonkin of Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., and three grandchildren, Zachary Butler, Alexandra Hamilton and Annaliese Yonkin.
Funeral arrangements are from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. today at Carpenter's Funeral Home, 14 E. Pulteney St.
Services will be held there at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Chaplain Byron Paris of the Coopers Plains Volunteer Fire Department officiating.