‘He is a hero and he will be remembered as such’: New Haven, West Haven communities honor fallen firefighter

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The community is in mourning this week, honoring fallen firefighter Ricardo Torres Jr. His death Wednesday on duty is the first in a long time.

The 30-year-old firefighter lost his life saving two people reportedly trapped inside a two-family home on Valley Street.

Lt. Samod Rankins was with him battling the flames, and is now fighting for his life at Bridgeport Hospital.

His family posted in a statement on Facebook saying, “As we all know, Lt. Rankins is strong and a fighter. Please keep him and the family in your prayers.”

Related: Fire departments across CT mourn death of New Haven firefighter killed while battling house fire

Torres had more than just a crew to back him up. He had a family within the New Haven Fire Department.

We spoke exclusively with the man who was part of the group who hired him: Reverend Steven Cousin, who is on the board of fire commissioners. He was called to the scene early Wednesday morning after he heard Torres was killed and several others injured.

The news hit him hard. He says he met Torres’ family at the hospital, including his pregnant wife. Reverend Cousin says the fire department and several other departments around the state are mourning this loss as one.

“You are going to risk your life for someone else,” Reverend Steven Cousin starts. “We pray that that day never comes but when it came for him, he did not run away. He did his job. He is a hero and he will be remembered as such.”

He added, “We want the best men and women that this city has to offer and for him to stand there in the face of fire and the stand with courage and conviction those are qualities that we look for.”

Related: ‘There are no words’: Officials identify New Haven firefighter killed, another firefighter in critical condition after battling house fire

Thursday, love and community support pouring in for firefighter Torres’ brothers and sisters in arms. People wanting to leave flowers and food directed to his firehouse on Goffe Street. This as his colleagues are back to work serving the city working through their grief.

Assistant Chief Justin McCarthy told News 8, “Being here is part of the healing process and I think that’s showing a hundred percent in this case.”

Torres, a hometown kid from West Haven, was well-known and well remembered.

We spoke with the principal of West Haven High School, Dana Paredes, Thursday where Torres left a big imprint.

“He had something about him that made you feel like you knew him forever,” she said.

Athletic, kind, empathetic, that’s how Paredes remembers fallen firefighter Torres. Paredes was the advisor for Torres’ graduating class in 2008. He played hockey and ran track and helped bilingual students and freshmen find their footing.

“He just had that ability to make people feel very comfortable talking and comfortable opening up and not judged,” Paredes added.

Qualities that no doubt helped Torres find success in the New Haven Fire Department and gave him the wherewithal to rush into a burning building Wednesday to save two people—only to lose his own life.

Paredes says Torres had a calling even as a teen: “He always knew he wanted to help people in some way.”

She’s thinking of his family: his pregnant wife and infant son and his mother. Torres’ hometown now offering to help in any way they can.

“I know his mom worked so hard to take care of him and if there is anything the school can do to help his family we will…He’s going to be missed.”

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