Firefighters in New Hampshire and beyond are mourning the line of duty death of well-known fire lieutenant and FETN instructor Christopher DeWolf.
DeWolf was killed Thursday, January 6 in a single motor vehicle accident during a snowstorm in Portsmouth, the Newington Fire Department reported.
Newington firefighters had responded to a smoke odor investigation and requested the oncoming shift to come in early to cover the station due to the extreme weather conditions. DeWolf was responding to the shift recall when he lost control of his vehicle in the snowstorm and crashed at 7:14 a.m., officials said.
DeWolf, age 41, served as a lieutenant in Newington as a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local #4104, for six months. Prior to that he served for 17 years as a firefighter in the city of Dover, as a member of Local #1312.
"The department's taking it pretty hard," said Newington Fire Lt. and Local 4104 President Tom McQuade. "He was a great guy, very knowledgeable and very family oriented." He said DeWolf was involved in numerous sports activities with his daughter, age 14 and his son, age 10.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, making sure they're taken care of," McQuade said. " We'll worry about ourselves afterwards."
McQuade said their fallen colleague will also be remembered for his positive and caring outlook. "When he walked into a room, if he sensed a person was feeling down, he would go out of his way to try to make them feel better and lighten things up," McQuade said.
Dover Fire Chief Perry Plummer said DeWolf's death has also hit his department very hard, because DeWolf had only been away from the department since August after a 17-year career there.
"This has been devastating to the city of Dover and its firefighters," he said. "Not only did we lose a comrade, but a friend and family member."
Plummer recalled DeWolf's energy and involvement in the department and the community. He called his friend a "devout family man," and recalled coaching hockey with him.
"These things are tragic," the chief said, "but as they say, Chris died doing what he loved."
DeWolf is also being mourned by those in the firefighting community who knew him through FETN, the Fire and Emergency Training Network.
According to FETN's web site, DeWolf served the network in many roles, from authoring several "American Heat" lesson plans to serving as content coordinator and as technical advisor.
The site said DeWolf was also the face of the network at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, when he persuaded command to allow their cameras to be the only ones inside while the incident was still underway. They said he also helped FETN get New Hampshire's fire and police departments on board with the state-wide Homeland One project, helping to provide them with training and communications.
"Chris had nearly a cult following from students of his 'Back to Basics' and 'Back to Basics Challenge' series," the web site reported. "When meeting students face to face for the first time, he was often asked to do his 'Chumley Dance' for them, a feature in the opening of some of his training videos. His dance was an outward expression of the energy and enthusiasm in the big guy."