Rescuers are honored after New Egypt fire

BY KAREN F. RILEY Correspondent


PLUMSTED — Not too many people would rush into a burning building, even to save someone’s life. Volunteer firefighters are among the select group of people who would take that risk.

On Sept. 5, New Egypt Volunteer Fire Company Chief Steven Morgan Jr. did not have the protection of his gear when the need arose, but that did not stop him from answering the call of duty. When the report of a fire in a mobile home in Colliers Mills Estates came in, Morgan, who lives nearby, responded directly to the scene.

When he arrived, heavy smoke was billowing from the front door and windows. A neighbor, Albert Hopkins, had dragged his garden hose over and put it in the window of the home to help extinguish the flames. Emergency Medical Technician Charlie Grieb reached the scene at about the same time as Morgan. With the heat rising and visibility low, the pair entered the home.

There they found Felix Tuccillo sitting on a couch, coughing from the heavy smoke and unable to get up due to severe arthritis. The fire had started to burn the couch and the cane in Tuccillo’s hand. Morgan and Grieb safely removed him from the mobile home.

Once outside, Mor-gan used the garden hose to extinguish the fire. He credits Hopkins for his quick thinking and actions in saving Tuccillo.

Fire trucks arrived at the scene within five minutes of the dispatch, but that probably would have been too late to save Tuccillo, Past Chief Aaron Heller said at the Township Committee’s Sept. 25 meeting.

Heller was on hand at the municipal building to watch Morgan and Grieb honored by the township for their brave actions.

“They had no protection. We spend a lot of time training for these situations, but this is something that you don’t train for. None of it would have made a difference in this fire. The timing was everything,” Heller said.

Morgan said humbly of his bravery, “It’s just what we do. We don’t even think about it, we just react.”

The recent rescue was déjà vu for the fire company. On Feb. 28, 1973, a similar rescue was made by then chief Stephen C. LaChance Jr. As LaChance stood on the podium last month listening to Township Commit-teeman Kenneth Francis honor Morgan, he may have been thinking back to that day.

But he certainly did not expect it to be acknowledged as Francis surprised the former chief by honoring him after Morgan had been feted.

“It may be more than 30 years overdue, but we feel it’s time we recognize this brave act,” Francis said.

LaChance also entered a burning building without protective gear or the assistance of breathing apparatus. He found a semi-conscious female victim on the first floor, hiding behind a couch. He was in the process of removing the victim when he became trapped behind a closed door. LaChance was able to force the door open and exit the building safely with the woman. He and the woman were treated by the New Egypt First Aid Squad.

Heller said LaChance “laid the groundwork for all of us” and that despite retiring, he stills responds to dispatches if no one else is around and he has been a big asset to the volunteer fire company.