Results 1 to 2 of 2

Thread: Long-Time New York Firefighter Dies Responding to Call

  1. #1
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002

    Long-Time New York Firefighter Dies Responding to Call

    Long-Time New York Firefighter Dies Responding to Call

    Updated: 08-30-2006 11:07:20 AM


    As paramedics gave Wilbur Ritter oxygen and loaded him into an ambulance, the 78-year-old volunteer had only one request from his fellow Sayville firefighters: "Make sure you get the signs up for the blood drive."

    The words, which reflected a dedication to everything and anything related to the fire department, resonated in the minds and hearts of firefighters who gathered at their station house yesterday to remember the 59-year member of the department who died of an apparent heart attack Monday morning after answering his final call for duty.

    "Even in his last moments, his concern was for the department and the community," said Chief Mark Beekman, who reminisced with others about the Holbrook resident survived by two adult sons.

    When Dan Karl joined the department almost five years ago because of Sept. 11, he said he learned from Ritter right away that the job wasn't just about showing up to the big fires and parades, but cleaning the trucks as well.

    "He lived his fire department life to a certain standard," said Karl. "He showed us by doing."

    And for those who had been around for 20 or 30 years, Ritter showed them by his level of involvement that they could still be an important part of the department.

    "He showed a good quality of leadership," said Bob Chester, the district manager for the department. "It shows guys that just because you're a little bit older doesn't mean you're useless."

    On Monday, Ritter arrived at the firehouse about 9:45 a.m. to pick up the fire police vehicle before responding to a call at the Eckerd pharmacy on Main Street, where there was concern of a potential roof collapse from the heavy rains. As it turned out, there was no collapse. While gathering the equipment, Ritter became pale, had difficulty breathing and started having chest pains.

    An emergency medical technician who was at the firehouse gave him oxygen until the ambulance arrived and took him to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center, where he died later, apparently of a heart attack, fire officials said.

    Ritter joined the department as a firefighter in 1947, following in his father's footsteps.

    When Ritter died he was a member of the Fire Police Squad, a team that responds to calls along with firefighters, sets up flares, shuts down roads and directs traffic to protect firefighters from getting hit by cars.

    Having grown up in the Depression era, Ritter was known for his frugality.

    He was by the book when it came to finances, nagging volunteers to pay their dues and not shelling out money if the proper paperwork hadn't been submitted in a timely fashion.

    "His family was very poor," said Charlie Oelkers, the department historian. "It carried on."

    Throughout the years, he held the titles of secretary, second vice president, first vice president, president and captain.

    Most recently, he served on the board of trustees for the Firemen's Home, a nursing home dedicated to the care of volunteer firefighters upstate in Hudson.

    "He was very proud of the home in Hudson and of the job that is done for those firemen who are less fortunate," said Ed Carpenter, a commissioner for the Sayville department. Ritter also served on the board of the Museum of Firefighting, which is located on the same campus as the home.

    Also in Hudson, Ritter was part of a committee that refurbished a cemetery that had been neglected for some time. He had fencing installed and had some of the headstones replaced. He did such a good job that the community accused the committee of building a new cemetery over the old one, Carpenter said.

    "He was a tremendous individual," Carpenter said.

    But Ritter's pet project was the annual department blood drive, those who knew him well said.

    Even though he usually had about 80 people sign up to donate, he was never able to reach his goal of collecting 75 pints of blood because some of the donors were turned away for different reasons. This was a constant disappointment for him.

    "He let everybody know," Carpenter said. "He was very vehement that we had let him down."

    The next drive, scheduled for Sept. 11, will be dedicated to his memory. Ritter is survived by his sons Michael and Peter. His wife, Evelyn, died in November.

    Visiting is today from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and tomorrow from 2 to 4:30 p.m. and 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Sayville Fire Department. The service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday at St. John's Lutheran Church in Sayville followed by interment at Union Cemetery in Sayville.


    To join the Sayville fire department, applicants must be at least 18 years old. There is no maximum age limit.

    "As long as the doctor clears you to participate, you can join," said Chief Mark Beekman.

    Following a physical exam, which is repeated annually, a fire district physician classifies volunteers. Older volunteers, like 78-year-old Wilbur Ritter, are most likely to end up serving on the Fire Police Squad, which provides traffic control at a fire scene, Beekman said.

    The annual exam also determines whether a volunteer gets shifted from firefighter to a member of the police squad to an administrative capacity, he said.

  2. #2
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Ritter, Wilbur

    Age: 78
    Cause of Death: Stress/Overexertion
    Rank: Fire Police Officer
    Nature of Death: Heart Attack
    Classification: Volunteer
    Emergency Duty: Yes

    Incident Date: 08/28/2006
    Duty Type: Responding
    Incident Time: 09:45
    Activity Type: Other
    Death Date: 08/28/2006
    Fixed Prop. Use: Store/Office

    Fire Dept. Info:
    Sayville Fire Department
    107 N Main St.
    Sayville , New York 11782
    Chief: Mark Beekman

    Initial Summary:
    Fire Police Officer Ritter became pale, had difficulty breathing and started having chest pains while preparing to respond to the scene of a reported non-fire emergency. He was treated in the firehouse by an EMT then transported to the hospital where he passed away from an apparent heart attack.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Fireman's Home of the State of NY, 125 Harry Howard Avenue, Hudson, NY 12534 or SCVFF Burn Center Fund, P.O. Box 1123, Setauket, NY 11733.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts