BRISTOL, Conn. (WTNH) — A fallen Burlington firefighter was laid to rest in his hometown of Bristol Thursday.
Colin McFadden was one of the many firefighters battling the fire that destroyed the historic New Hartford House last week when he suffered from a medical emergency at the scene. Doctors said McFadden had Leukemia, and he died from complications with the previously undiagnosed medical condition a few days later.
He was just 26 years old. He’d been a volunteer firefighter in Burlington since he was 20.
According to the Bristol mayor, firefighters from all across the state attended the funeral. The fire service is a close-knit community, and they are overwhelmed with emotion after losing a young, energetic, seemingly healthy member.
McFadden was an Eagle Scout, amateur radio enthusiast, Habitat for Humanity volunteer, and spoke publicly about living with Asperger’s Syndrome since the age of seven. Those who knew and loved McFadden say he lived a full life and set an example for anyone hoping to enter the fire service.
“He’s one of the youngest members we have in our group. He was involved in all types of things. If there was something going on, Colin was there,” said Richard Lehmert, Bristol Community Emergency Response Team.
Mass was held at 11 a.m. Thursday at Saint Matthew Church. Firefighters and guests attending can park at Centre Square or 10 Main Street. Uniformed personnel is asked to arrive at the parking lot by 9:30 a.m. Residents are asked to avoid the Forestville area surrounding St. Matthew Church on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Bellevue Avenue was closed to through traffic from Sessions Street to Beleden Gardens Drive for portions of the day and Church Avenue was closed between Washington Street and Central Street on Thursday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The community came together Wednesday afternoon to remember the fallen firefighter during calling hours at the Funk Funeral Home.
“This is a firefighter who was standing next to you five minutes ago, and now he’s on his way to the hospital in an ambulance,” said Mark Amatrudo, Commander of the Connecticut Statewide Honor Guard. “It causes a whole bunch of different emotions.”
Burlington Fire Chief Michael Boucher spoke with News 8 Wednesday:
It has been unreal. Firefighters from all over sending their condolences, reaching out, seeing what they can do. We’ve had a lot of support. We’ve had fire departments across the entire state covering our fire department for the next two days so that we could be here as an entire department, to honor Colin and give him the honor and respect that he deserves.”
“Colin was a young, energetic guy, involved in so many community things, so now the community is paying back to him,” Chief Boucher added. “He had a significant impact on our community and in the fire service as is evident by the overwhelming support we’ve received from across the nation.”
New Haven Fire Chief John Alston and members of the department paid their respects, understanding all too well the pain and loss McFadden’s families and colleagues are feeling after suffering their own loss in the line of duty just three months ago with the loss of hero firefighter Ricardo Torres.
“We share their pain and share their grief. As we work through our own, we’re going to help them, and we don’t forget him, we won’t forget Ricardo, and they’re a part of our family forever,” Alston said.
McFadden’s death renewed the call for blood donations, with the state supply being low.
“It helps the entire community and that’s what Colin was about, he was about community. So that’s a good way to honor him,” Chief Boucher said.
If you’re interested in donating blood, eligible individuals are encouraged to schedule an appointment to give blood by using the Red Cross Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Flags around Connecticut have been flying at half staff to pay tribute to McFadden, and that will end at sunset Thursday after the state has a chance to say goodbye.