Seven firefighters will be honored for putting lives on the line during fatal blaze in Massena
Thursday, June 7, 2018 - 2:53 pm

MASSENA -- Seven members of the Massena Volunteer Fire Department will be recognized as "Firefighters of the Year" at the 122nd annual Northern New York Volunteer Firemen’s Association convention June 7-9 in Copenhagen.

The convention brings hundreds of volunteers together for remembrance, awards, meetings, training, and camaraderie.

On Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 just before 10 p.m., the Massena Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to a working structure fire with entrapment. Members arrived on scene within minutes to see St. Lawrence County sheriff’s deputies and members of the state police trying to get into the house. Due to the intense heat and smoke they were unable to get to the upstairs of the house, and evacuated all those they could from the residence.

The Massena firefighters learned there was a young child still upstairs in the bedroom.

Lt. James R. Debien grabbed a hand line off Engine 31 and entered the house with his father, James F. Debien. The duo sprayed water from the bottom of the stairs after encountering flames at the top of the stairway.

Firefighters Jason Newcomb, Conner Terrance, Matt Chontosh, and Jason Horan all entered the house in full turnout gear with self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), as directed by Capt. Mike Macaulay.

The interior firefighters entered the second floor and Macaulay, without SCBA, entered the bedroom where the child was reported to be but was was unable to get past the end of the bed due to the intense heat. Firefighters Newcomb and Terrance continued to search the bedroom for the child.

About eight minutes after being dispatched, firefighter Newcomb located the child in the bedroom. Newcomb handed the child to firefighter Chontosh who was at the door of the bedroom. Chontosh then handed the child to Macaulay on the stairs, who then rushed the child out of the house to Chief Wayne Love of Massena Rescue Squad who immediately started emergency care.

Despite the immediate and valiant efforts of those at the scene, the five-year-old child was pronounced dead at about 10:38 p.m. at Massena Memorial Hospital.

The emotions of all firefighters involved were high: they all have young children of their own.

"We are honored that our members are being recognized with this prestigious award for their swift and courageous actions, despite the devastating outcome,” said Chief Quenneville. “Our members train all year round, and are always willing to put their own lives in danger, to help others, at any time.”