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Thread: New Jersey Firefighter Evacuates Residents, Dies In Explosion

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    New Jersey Firefighter Evacuates Residents, Dies In Explosion

    New Jersey Firefighter Evacuates Residents, Dies In Explosion

    Courtesy of ABC7

    A firefighter was killed battling a second-alarm fire in New Brunswick, N.J. Friday morning.

    It is a day of mourning for New Brunswick's bravest following the death of a veteran firefighter.

    Deputy Chief Jim D'Heron was killed fighting flames in a multi-family home on Lee Avenue early this morning.

    Deputy Fire Chief Jim D'Heron arrived in a vehicle around 3:00 a.m. He jumped out the vehicle, ran into the house where the fire was taking place and told those people inside it was time to get out just before he lost his life.

    Chrystalina Hernandez, Fire Victim: "I feel sorry for the fireman who died. I tried to help him and he came in and helped us. He saved our lives."

    Chrystalina Hernandez moved into the multi-family home on Wednesday. And in the middle of the night, smoke filled her room and she heard a voice telling her to get out quickly. It was the voice of firemen Jim D'Heron who ran into the building to warn the residents. He also may have saved over a dozen people before he died.

    Deputy Chief Robert Rawls: "You never expect it to be one of us, but before we leave home in the morning we kiss the wife and the kids then do what we have to do."

    It appears that a propane tank stored in the house exploded and D'Heron was severely burned and died on the scene. All of the occupants were rescued. Many of the immigrants living at the house are now being assisted by the Red Cross.

    Over at the firehouse, the purple and black bunting have now gone up and the American flag is now at half-staff in remembrance of a 23-year veteran who died saving others.

    Lawrence Petrillo, NJ State Fire Marshal: "The guy was a hero. He was a firefighter that most firefighters would look up to. I am just glad I knew him."

    The cause of this fire is still under investigation.

    Firehouse.Com News:

    The New Brunswick Fire Department reports that funeral services for James D'Heron are scheduled for Wednesday, September 8th at 9 a.m. at St. Peter's Church in New Brunswick. A large turnout is expected, and the department asks that anyone planning to attend please notify the department via fax at (732) 246-3126. Attendees will then receive further information including directions and staging areas.

    The family requests that in lieu if flowers, any donations be made to the St. Barnabas Burn Foundation at 94 Old short Hills Rd. in Livingston, NJ 07039. The foundation can be reached by phone at (973) 322-4344.

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    City mourns fallen firefighter

    By Joel Landau and Monica Rozenfeld / Staff Writers

    Deputy Fire Chief James D'heron died early Friday morning after he rescued 15 people from a burning house at 50 Lee Ave.

    D'heron was the first person to arrive at the scene, approximately 90 seconds after a passer-by called 911 from a payphone across the street across at 3:03 a.m. D'heron, who was not wearing a fire coat or helmet, responded first to assess the situation. Shortly after, three fire trucks arrived and got the fire under control.

    The announcement came at a press conference Friday afternoon at City Hall. New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill became emotional as he described D'heron.

    "James and I have known each other since high school," said Cahill, who was a year ahead of D'heron at St. Peter's High School in New Brunswick during the 1970s. "He was a firefighter's firefighter. He was a skilled professional, fearless and brave - a hero."

    A preliminary investigation has led the city to conclude the fire started on the first floor hallway of the house and extended to the second floor. D'heron entered the house, awoke all 15 residents and got them safely out of the building. His body was later found on the second floor.

    Cahill said, at the time of the fire, up to 21 residents had been living in the house, which is not an unusual amount for a building that large. Of the 15 D'heron saved, 13 were adults and two were children ages 7 and 12.

    Police are still investigating the cause of the fire. The house did contain three propane tanks, which were removed intact, said Police Director Joseph Catanese.

    The city and Red Cross provided the residents with food, clothing shoes and linens, but Cahill said no arrangements for emergency housing were required because they all had friends or relatives to stay with.

    D'heron is the fifth firefighter in the city's history to lose his life since the department was first chartered in 1764, Cahill said. The city is currently reviewing its records to determine the last time a firefighter was lost, but Cahill said it was at least 50 years ago.

    Viewings for D'heron will be held today at St. Peter The Apostle Roman Catholic Church at 94 Somerset St. from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral Mass will be held tomorrow at 10 a.m. at St. Peter's High School.

    D'heron began working at the department in December 1980. He was promoted to captain in July 1994 and named deputy chief in June 2001.

    "Jim dedicated his life to the most important service. He made the greatest sacrifice of all: He gave his life so others can be saved," Cahill said. "I want to express my appreciation for city firefighters and firefighters everywhere."

    D'heron, 51, is survived by a wife, Kathleen, and three children - Erin, Mickey and Jimmie. He received three commendations for saving people's lives on duty, including one in 1985 when he carried a 5-year-old out of harm's way from a fire on Nichol Avenue.

    City Fire Director Robert McLaughlin said D'heron was a dear friend who was a hero while on the job.

    "He gave his all to make sure the occupants were saved," McLaughlin said. "He never changed as he moved up the ranks. Words cannot express the emptiness we feel. Chief D'heron was a hero that will be sorely missed."

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    Firefighter's friends pay respects

    By Carmen Cusido / Assignment Editor

    New Brunswick

    Firefighters, police officers, friends and family paid their respects to Deputy Chief James D'heron, who died last Friday after rescuing 15 people from a burning house on 50 Lee Ave.

    At the wake, held yesterday at St. Peter the Apostle Church on Somerset Street, colleagues and friends shared their favorite memories of 51-year-old D'heron.

    New Brunswick firefighter Steve Bonura said he knew D'heron for 18 years.

    "I worked the fire truck with him for seven years. ... He was one hell of a fireman," Bonura said.

    "Jimmy was well-loved and well-respected in the fire department. He was a good friend, colleague, good husband, great father. He will be sorely missed, and I'll never be the same without him," Bonura said.

    Even though firefighter Dana Christianis has worked at the New Brunswick Fire Department for only a year, she said she would miss D'heron because "he always kept us laughing. ... I was working when it happened, and I was in shock."

    Michael McKenzie, a New Brunswick firefighter and longtime friend of D'heron's, said the mood in the fire department after receiving the news was "somber."

    McKenzie, a pallbearer, said he was in shock and disbelief when he found out about D'heron's death Friday. "It didn't surprise me that [James] did what he did," said McKenzie about D'heron being the first person to arrive on scene to "get the ball rolling" and prevent the fire from spreading.

    About 50 or 60 people lined up for the 2 p.m. wake. Some were talking, some were crying and others were reflecting on D'heron's life.

    During his 23-year tenure at the department, D'heron served two separate stints as president of the local firefighters' union and the local fire officers' union.

    Lt. Firefighter Ken Faust was sworn in the same day as D'heron in 1980. "We always played golf together. ... He was a fun-loving guy. We also went to union conventions together," Faust said.

    "We're going to miss him. How am I supposed to go to work without him being there?" Faust said.

    D'heron was promoted to deputy chief in 2001. He is survived by his wife Kathleen, a daughter and two sons.

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    Firefighter honored by survivors

    Published in the Asbury Park Press 11/26/04


    NEW BRUNSWICK -- Deputy Fire Chief James D'heron was honored yesterday for sacrificing his life to save 15 Hispanics during a September house fire in New Brunswick.

    "It didn't matter what race, creed or color they were, he gave his life," said New Brunswick firefighter Victor Ortega, who attended the event.

    The group chose yesterday to present a plaque to D'heron's wife, Kathleen; children and grandchildren because it was a day of thanks, Ortega said.

    D'heron, known as "Jimmy D." by his fellow firefighters, rushed into a 3 a.m. house fire at 50 Lee Ave on Sept. 3. D'heron, 51, was the first responder to the scene and wore no protective gear when he roused 15 residents to safety before he perished.

    The plaque, recognizing D'heron's contribution to the Latino community, was presented by Danny Rosado, the executive director of Women in Action, a New Brunswick-based Hispanic community organization.

    Seven immigrants from the Dominican Republic also participated in the ceremony at fire headquarters on Joyce Kilmer Avenue. The president of the firefighters for the Dominican Republic was scheduled to attend and present a second plaque but was delayed during his trip from the island, Ortega said. The second plaque will be presented at a later date, said Ortega.

    Yesterday's ceremony reminded the firefighters how recent D'heron's death still seems.

    "Because we know him, it was emotional," said Ortega. "He's going to be missed. We're all trying to deal with it.",21625,1124642,00.html

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    D'Heron, James J.

    Age: 51
    Cause of Death: Caught or Trapped
    Rank: Deputy Chief
    Nature of Death: Burns
    Classification: Career
    Emergency Duty: Yes

    Incident Date: 09/03/2004
    Duty Type: On-Scene Fire
    Incident Time: 03:04
    Activity Type: Search and Rescue
    Death Date: 09/03/2004
    Fixed Prop. Use: Residential

    Fire Dept. Info:
    New Brunswick Fire Department
    93 Joyce Kilmer Avenue
    New Brunswick , New Jersey 08901
    Chief: Director Robert McLaughlin

    Final Summary:
    Deputy Chief D'heron and members of his fire department were dispatched to a fire in a multiple-family residence. Deputy Chief D'heron arrived first, reported a working fire, and took command. Not seeing any occupants outside or leaving the structure, he entered the structure to alert residents to the fire. Deputy Chief D'heron was not wearing any personal protective clothing or equipment. Deputy Chief D'heron was banging on doors to alert residents of the fire when an explosion occurred. Deputy Chief D'heron was mortally burned in the explosion and ensuing fire. Arriving firefighters found him on the second floor landing and removed him from the structure. He was pronounced dead at the scene. A homeless man who slept in the hallway of the building caused the fire. The man discarded a cigarette near some plastic shower curtains and a plastic container of gasoline. The curtains and the gasoline ignited, producing sufficient heat to cause 3 nearby propane cylinders to vent their contents. The accumulated propane gas is thought to be the source of the explosion that killed Deputy Chief D'heron.

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    Funeral Scheduled for New Jersey Deputy Fire Chief

    Associated Press

    NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) -- Hundreds of firefighters are expected to attend funeral services Wednesday for Deputy Fire Chief James D'Heron, who died Friday after rushing alone into a burning house and alerting residents to evacuate.

    D'Heron, 51, was the only person hurt in the fire. He was the fifth New Brunswick firefighter to die on duty in a department that dates to 1764, and the first in at least 50 years, Mayor James Cahill has said.

    D'Heron's funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church. It will be followed by a procession to St. Peter's Cemetery on Route 27.

    The cause of the fire and the cause of D'Heron's death remained under investigation on Tuesday, said Gary Hirsch, a Cahill spokesman.

    D'Heron, who arrived first at the fire scene early Friday, was not wearing protective gear or breathing gear. He was found on a second-floor landing by fellow firefighters, Cahill said.

    Thirteen adults and two children escaped safely. Six other residents were not at home, authorities said.

    D'Heron had received three citations for heroism during his 24-year career with the professional department, the mayor said, and was promoted to deputy chief in 2001.

    He was married with three grown children, and lived in New Brunswick.

    D'Heron was the fourth firefighter to die on duty in New Jersey this year.

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    Blaze That Killed N.J. Fire Chief Believed To Be Accidental

    Story by

    NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- The blaze that killed a deputy fire chief does not appear to have been set intentionally, but was fueled by at least one of the three illegal propane tanks in the house, police said Thursday.

    Police charged a first-floor tenant with storing the tanks and cooking equipment in the residence, using a residence to operate a food service business and obstructing or delaying the fire investigation.

    Deputy Chief James D'heron died immediately from exposure to high temperatures during the Sept. 3 fire, according to an autopsy by the Middlesex County Medical Examiner's office, police said.

    D'heron, 51, was the first firefighter on the scene, and rushed alone into the burning home and alerted residents to flee, officials said.

    Thirteen adults and two children escaped safely from the building, and no other firefighters were hurt, authorities said. Six other residents were not at home.

    D'heron, who was not wearing protective gear or breathing gear, was found on a second-floor landing by fellow firefighters.

    Preliminary results of the investigation showed that the fire began in the first-floor hallway of the two-family dwelling, police said.

    The fire caused pressure to rise in at least one of the propane tanks, leading to a gas leak from a safety valve. The released gas ignited, sending a fireball that filled the hallway and stairwell, police said.

    D'heron was believed to be at the top of the stairs at the time, police Sgt. Richard P. Rowe said.

    The accused tenant, Nannette Baretto, faces three violations of the state fire code, with potential fines totaling $12,500.

    The obstruction charge stems from her not immediately admitting that the cooking equipment was hers, he said. The equipment is not believed to be the source of the fire, Rowe said.

    She could not be reached for comment. The dwelling is not habitable and police did not know if she had retained a lawyer, Rowe said.

    Some 21 people lived at the house because of illegal subletting, Rowe said.

    The house was owned by Victor DeFilippo, a New Brunswick police sergeant, who did not live there.

    "He was unaware of the equipment and the subletting," Rowe said.

    DeFilippo continues to cooperate in the investigation and remains on active duty, Rowe said.

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    Hero New Jersey Firefighter Died Saving 15 Single-Handed

    (New Brunswick-WABC, September 8, 2004) -- They said goodbye to a hero today. Deputy Fire Chief James D'Heron, 51, and veteran firefighter died on Friday.

    He was the first on the scene at a house fire in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He rushed in without equipment, and because of him all 15 residents made it out. But D'Heron did not.

    And they buried him today.

    Here's Jeff Rossen.

    Firefighter: "When a person makes that sort of decision, to put other people's lives in front of their own, in front of their own families, their own children. But he made a decision under fire, and we're here to support him."

    D'Heron died for 15 complete strangers. He was a deputy chief in the New Brunswick Fire Department. And it was in his blood.

    From across the state on Friday they came, the only people who could fathom this sacrifice -- fellow firefighters.

    Last Friday as a house was blazing, D'Heron arrived first, by himself. There was no time to put on the protective gear, so he rushed inside unprotected, screaming and banging doors to get everyone out.

    It worked, and 13 adults and two children all escaped because of D'Heron. But the man who saved them did not.

    Fred Fretz, Union County Fire Chief: "At most jobs, the most dangerous thing is the drive to work. Our job, it's after we get there."

    Over his 24-year-career, D'Heron has saved others. One woman was attending the funeral because D'Heron had rescued her father.

    Mourner: "He took that man out of that room, and carried him down them steps outside. There's no way I would have missed this. No way."

    That hero firefighter who saved so many leaves behind a family of his home, his wife, and three grown children.

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