A Connecticut fire chief died in the line of duty Monday afternoon after returning to the fire station from an ambulance call.
Chief Bruce Fletcher, 50, was a 30-year veteran of the Ashford Volunteer Fire Department.
He had just returned to the station to do paperwork when he began having breathing difficulty and called for help, said Assistant Chief Charles Reviczky.
Fellow firefighters immediately responded to the emergency call at their own station along with a mutual aid ambulance from the Mansfield Fire Dept. and paramedics from Windham Community Hospital in Willimantic. The chief died at the hospital at about 4:45 p.m. The cause of death is being determined.
Fletcher joined the department on November 12, 1972 and worked his way up the ranks to become Chief in 1996. He was a member of several organizations including the Windham County Fire Chiefs Association and the Switchboard Association, Reviczky said. He had a bachelor's degree in fire science and certification as an EMT since 1974 and as a Connecticut State Fire Officer 2, and was involved in training at the state fire training academy.
Fletcher was also a decorated U.S. Army veteran of Vietnam and received the Bronze Star medal and two Purple Hearts, Reviczky said, and he served in the Connecticut National Guard for 20 years.
Fletcher retired this October from his job at DCMA Pratt & Whitney.
Reviczky said the chief enjoyed the outdoors and was an avid hunter. His twin brother Wayne Fletcher is the Deputy Chief at the department.
Fletcher is also survived by his wife Jaye, and four grown children, Steven Fletcher and his wife Louise, James Perkins, Melissa Fletcher, and Rachael Pelletier. Jaye and Melissa are EMT's and active members of the department.
Ashford and Mansfield personnel were attending an incident stress debriefing Tuesday evening and had a hard time talking about the chief. "Bruce was instrumental in raising the level of training for all personnel and always strove for the highest level of safety and professionalism. He touched a lot of people's lives here. He was a man you could trust and follow," Reviczky said in a prepared statement.
Fletcher will be buried with full fire department and military honors.
Visitation will take place Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Potter Funeral Home at 456 Jackson St. in Willimantic. The funeral will be on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the former Ashford Baptist Church, on Rt. 89 in Westford, with a reception following at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford.
Donations in Fletcher's memory may be sent to the Ashford Fire Department at P.O. Box 1 Ashford, CT 06278.