A Connecticut firefighter died in the line of duty early Tuesday at his firehouse after responding to an alarm for a fire at a convalescent home.
Deputy Chief Donald Maurice, 52, served the Wolcott Volunteer Fire Department for 31 years and served as deputy chief for the past 11 years. This is the first line of duty death in the department's 58-year history.
Retired Chief Chuck Marsella said Company One got a fire call at 2:58 a.m. but the crew returned to the station immediately after pulling the apparatus out because they learned the call was a false alarm, due to a faulty smoke detector. That was when Maurice was stricken with a heart attack.
"We don't do medical but we were here with him," Marsella said. "We started first aid immediately and called the ambulance, and the police responded with a defibrillator." Maurice was transported to St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury, where he was pronounced dead at about 3:30 a.m.
He is survived by his wife Jeanne, his parents, brother, sister, and a niece and a nephew.
"He couldn't have been more active a member," Marsella said. Marsella joked that Maurice was also fanatic about keeping his personal vehicle and the department's fire apparatus clean. "A piece of dirt didn't have a chance. He had the shiniest vehicle in town, there's no question about it," Marsella said. Maurice even won several awards for the vehicles at parades for "best appearance."
"He was a big parade goer, he loved a fireman's parade," Marsella said.
Maurice worked as custodian and night supervisor at the local junior high school, and was a truck driver before that. "He was also a prankster," Marsella said. On April Fool's Day, Maurice taped the school principal's jacket sleeve shut, so that he couldn't get his arm into it when he tried to put it on. "He thought it was a student but it didn't take long to figure out it was Donald," Marsella said.
The viewing will take place at the Della Veccia Funeral Home at 690 Woodtick Road from 4 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 10th. A funeral mass will be held at St. Pius X Church at 535 Woodtick Rd., at 10 a.m. on April 11th. Graveside services and burial will follow the Mass at the Woodstick Cemetery.
Firefighters wishing to attend the wake are requested to use shuttle buses from the church to the funeral home. Those attending the funeral are requested to be at the church by 9:30 a.m.