Massachusetts Firefighter Dies on Duty

Posted: 05-25-2009
Updated: 05-25-2009 01:24:02 PM

Bruno Matarazzo Jr.
The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.

May 25--BEVERLY --When firefighters from the North Beverly fire station were ordered to cover headquarters on Friday afternoon, while others rushed to assist with a three-alarm house fire in Peabody, firefighter Paul J. Roberts failed to respond.

Seconds later, another firefighter found him unconscious upstairs.

"They did everything they could, but unfortunately he didn't survive," said fire Capt. Peter O'Connor.

Roberts, 54, a 21-year veteran of the Fire Department and a lifelong resident of Beverly, died of a heart attack, O'Connor said.

"I'll tell you what, he's going to be deeply missed around here," O'Connor said, wiping tears from his eyes.

For Beverly firefighters, this is the first line-of-duty death since 1983 when firefighter Bob McPherson died, also of a heart attack.

"It's pretty rough around here," O'Connor said of the overall mood in the department.

The city's three fire station are draped with black and purple bunting, and will be for 30 days.

At the request of the family, the department is preparing for a firefighter's funeral on Friday at Immanuel Church on Bridge Street. Firefighters from throughout the area are expected to attend.

Roberts joined the Fire Department in April of 1988 and spent most of his career at the North Beverly station on Dodge Street. He worked on Engine 5 along with firefighter Steve White and their lieutenant, Robert Atherton.

"Everyone will always remember Paul with the same grin on his face," O'Connor said. "He was a great guy to have around here."

O'Connor said Roberts loved his two granddaughters, Caitlin and Courtney, and was always talking about them at the station, or to them on the phone.

He leaves his wife, Nancy; a daughter, Mae; and a son, Paul.
Funeral Services

Visitation will be held from 4-8 p.m. Thursday, May 28 at Campbell's Funeral Home, Beverly.

There will be a firefighters' service at 6:30 p.m.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Immanuel United Church of Christ.

Firefighters are asked to meet at a staging area at 9:30 a.m. They will be shuttled to the church, Details on the gathering place will be announced soon.

All color and honor guards are welcome. The Greater Boston Firefighters Pipes and Drums have been requested.