NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – A stretch of Washington Avenue in North Haven was lined with people today who were paying their respects and witnessing the procession for a fallen hero.
The body of firefighter Matthias Wirtz was escorted from the medical examiner’s office in Farmington to the North Haven Funeral Home.
With a flag flying overhead, community members and fellow first responders gathered outside the North Haven Funeral Home on Wednesday to pay their respects to Wirtz.
“It’s the least I can do,” said David Milano of North Haven. “Just to see it, it’s amazing.”
Wirtz died in the line of duty on Monday while responding to a fire on Quinnipiac Avenue. The state’s chief medical examiner determined he died of heart disease.
Wirtz had been working with the hose lines when he collapsed while changing out an air bottle, according to officials.
He was “actively working under extreme environmental conditions to protect the lives of the occupants and fellow members of his crew inside the building,” according to North Haven Fire Chief Paul Januszewski.
“FF Wirtz remained steadfast at his post ensuring their safety with disregard for his own and is a hero for his actions and ultimate sacrifice for others,” Januszewski said in a written statement.
Wirtz was a decorated veteran firefighter serving North Haven for more than two decades.
“He’s ready to put his life on the line, all of them,” Milano said. “Sometimes we take it for granted.”
The procession on Wednesday started at the medical examiner’s office in Farmington. Highway overpasses were lined with firefighters as a way to honor this fallen hero. 8-year-old Zander Spetland was among those who witnessed the tribute to Wirtz.
“My dad worked with Maa,” Spetland said. “He was hired with Matt, he went to 9/11 with Matt.”
Dressed as a firefighter, Spetland hopes to one day wear the uniform too.
“They save people’s lives, and they do the opposite of what people would do if there’s a fire,” Spetland said.
Wirtz is remembered for his generosity. He had a big smile and an unwavering devotion to his community.
He is survived by his mother, wife, and three stepchildren.
Calling hours for the public will be held on Monday, January 2 at the North Haven Funeral Home from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Additional information for parking and shuttles will be released at a later date.
The funeral for Wirtz will be held on Tuesday, January 3 at Saint Barnabas Church, Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity Parish in North Haven starting at 11 a.m.
On the day of the funeral, Clintonville Road at the intersection of Washington Avenue will be closed during the early morning hours.
The burial will be private.