A North Haven firefighter died from injuries sustained while on the scene of a fire that displaced 13 residents of a multi-family home in North Haven Monday morning.
Matthias Wirtz, 46, who was a 22-year department veteran, sustained serious injuries in the fire and later died at Yale New Haven Hospital, North Haven Chief Paul Januszewski told reporters Monday. He said Wirtz was working outside of the building and was not inside.
North Haven Police said he became distressed while battling the fire and was then transported to the hospital.
“It’s a tragic loss for the North Haven Fire Department and all our families,” Januszewski said.
Januszewski described Wirtz as “everybody’s friend.” The chief said he was “a great person, he was a great family man, he would do anything for anybody.”
Wirtz recently signed on to be an engine driver and was excited about the switch, Januszewski said.
“We ask our community to pray for Wirtz’s family and his extended firefighter family, who are grieving this tragic loss,” the North Haven Police Department said in a statement. “At a time when family comes together for celebration, our brave firemen are now grieving the loss of one of their own.”
The American Red Cross responded to the scene and is assisting the 13 people displaced from the fire at the four-family home, Januszewski said. One of the four units was unoccupied at the time of the fire, he said.
There was heavy fire coming out of the back of the house, Januszewski said. Firefighters were working to suppress flames on each of the three floors, plus an attic space, while doing primary and secondary searches, he said.
He said there is heavy smoke and water damage to the home.
Gov. Ned Lamont lowered the U.S. and state flags to half-staff in honor of Wirtz Monday until an undetermined amount of time. No flag shall fly higher than the U.S. flag during this time period, according to his office.
“This is particularly upsetting as it comes at a time of year when families and friends are gathering to celebrate the holiday season,” Lamont said in a statement. “His passing is a painful reminder that first responders work every single day of the year, 24 hours a day, and often miss holidays with their families in order to protect the people of our state. My heart is with his family, friends, and colleagues in the North Haven Fire Department.”
The Connecticut State Police Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit have taken over the investigation of the fire. The cause has not yet been determined, but Januszewski said there is no reason to believe it was a suspicious fire.