Mar. 13—SAYRE, Penn. — The Watertown Fire Department wanted to make sure that Peyton Morse, the recruit who suffered a medical emergency at the state fire academy last week, was given his firefighter badge.
During a ceremony last Saturday, Fire Chief Matthew Timerman pinned the badge — Badge #94 — on him while the young firefighter laid in a hospital bed in an intensive care unit at a Pennsylvania hospital.
City fire department officials were saddened to announce Mr. Morse died Friday afternoon. He was 21.
They wanted to honor the young firefighter, who died in the line of duty.
"Friday night was a bad night. It started to sink in that he might not make it," Chief Timerman said.
Pinning a badge on a young firefighter marks the beginning of their career and normally comes after their training is completed.
The city fire department quickly arranged to get the badge from a badge company, Smith and Warren Badges, and gave it to him during an emotional ceremony, with family, friends, firefighters and clergy in attendance.
The young firefighter was unconscious, so they asked him questions in such a manner that he did not have to respond, the chief said. So Mr. Morse died as a Watertown firefighter.
"We made sure we pinned his badge while he was still with us," Chief Timerman said.
A wedding ceremony was also performed with his fiancée at his bedside that day.
His family, friends, city firefighters and friends from an Albany-area fire department were at his side when he died, the fire chief said.
The chief described the young firefighter as "the best," who was known for his compassion of going the extra mile in wanting to help people. He was the kind of firefighter who would climb a tree to save a cat when that situation is known not to be a firefighter's favorite call. Or he would have stayed to make sure that a grandmother was OK if she fell out of bed, Chief Timerman said.
"I think he would have been a compassionate firefighter who would have gone out of his way to help people," the chief said.
On March 3, Mr. Morse was participating in the recruit firefighter training program at the New York State Fire Academy of Fire Science at Montour Falls, near Watkins Glen, when he suffered a medical emergency.
Mr. Morse was rushed to a local hospital, where he regained a heartbeat and was taken by a medical helicopter to Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Penn.
Mr. Morse remained in the intensive care unit fighting for his life with his wife and family beside him.
Mr. Morse was the assistant fire chief for the LaFargeville Volunteer Fire Department. He volunteered at the Shaker Road-Loudonville Fire Department as a Siena College student when he decided he wanted to become a firefighter, a firefighter friend said earlier this week.
LaFargeville Fire Chief Wade Ingalls said the firefighter "had a love for fire service and a love for his community."
In 2017, Mr. Morse had just turned 18 when he submitted an application to volunteer with LaFargeville. The young firefighter, whose grandfather worked in fire service also, was fascinated with old fire equipment and how much it progressed over the years.
He showed "there was no stopping him," Chief Ingalls said.
The fire chief knew right away that the young firefighter was "a go-getter," whose positive personality came through no matter the situation.
"He'd be like, 'Don't worry. We'll take care of it. We've got this,'" Chief Ingalls said.
Mr. Morse, whose father Dave is a retired state trooper, thought about either going into law enforcement or become a career firefighter, Chief Ingalls said. It was not a surprise that he chose fire service, he said.
City Manager Kenneth A. Mix gave his condolences to his family.
"This was an absolute horrible thing to happen to someone so young and just starting out his career," Mr. Mix said. "By all accounts, Peyton was going to be an excellent firefighter. His untimely death is a great loss to the city of Watertown."
The families, as well as Watertown, Shaker Road-Loudonville and LaFargeville fire departments, wished to thank everyone for the prayers and numerous displays of support.
Capt. Andrew Naklick, secretary for the Watertown Professional Firefighters Association, said firefighters are "saddened" and grieving the loss of the young firefighters. He's received phone calls, text messages and emails from firefighters from all over the country who are expressing their condolences about the department's loss.
"We're all deeply saddened with what happened," he said.
Mr. Morse's entire life was dedicated to helping people and he would want all of us to continue his mission in life, fire officials said.
The state police and the Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau, also known as PESH, are also investigating what happened.
Earlier this week, Chet Lasell, assistant director of communications at the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said he could not comment about the status of the state police inquiry because it was an "ongoing investigation."
But the state academy removed some instructors while the investigation is completed.
Calling hours and funeral arrangements are not complete.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to: Watertown Firefighters Benevolent Association/Peyton Morse Fund, Watertown Savings Bank, 111 Clinton St., Watertown, NY 13601, or WFD Station 1/ Watertown Firefighters Benevolent Association/Peyton Morse in the memo line, 224 South Massey St., Watertown, NY 13601.
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