There is mourning tonight in Owego, after the death of an officer in the fire department. Stephen Gavin got sick during a lumberyard fire last week.
The flag in front of the Owego Fire Department hangs at half staff and bunting is draped over the front door as firefighters quietly mourn the loss of Stephen Gavin. The 52 year old volunteer's life was cut short after suffering a heart attack in the line of duty.
Owego Fire Chief Ken Easton said, "Absolute shock to all of us. Stephen is 2 years my junior in good health. Maintains yearly physicals. Who would have thought this would have happened to him."
The 34 year veteran was rushed to Wilson Hospital after fighting a blaze for several hours last Wednesday that swept though an Owego lumberyard on Day Hollow Road.
Hot humid weather made for a difficult fire fight. Easton says the environment may have contributed to Gavin's heart attack.
"Firefighting by nature contributes to a high stress environment and certainly I think that added to his injury."
Gavin's condition had gotten so bad by Monday afternoon that he was sent to Hershey Medical Center in Pennsylvania. But bad weather delayed his arrival until after midnight. A couple hours later his lungs filled with fluid. Stephen Gavin was pronounced dead at about 3 Tuesday morning.
Gavin was a captain, a ground line officer and integral in training the departments 120 volunteers. Chief Easton says Gavin was a colleague and a friend. Both men joined the department in 1969.
"You would never find a person more dedicated to his community then Steve was...There are a lot of people walking around today who can thank Steve Gavin. I mean every call he makes, I mean the first engine to respond out of this station is Steve Gavin's. Every time, I mean he's just totally dedicated."
He says Gavin's death will be felt by the whole community.
Gavin is survived by his wife Toni and three sons, Patrick, Timothy and Danny, all firefighters as well. A full fire fighter funeral is expected to be held later this week.