×

Montgomery Fire Chief Stephen P. Frye dies while battling late night house fire

  • Montgomery Fire Chief Stephen P. Frye is shown in an undated photo. Frye died while responding to a house fire on Southampton Road late Tuesday night.  State Fire Marshal’s Office

  • STEPHEN FRYE

  • Firefighters douse what remains of a home on Southampton Road in Montgomery on Wednesday morning. Montgomery Fire Chief Stephen P. Frye collapsed while battling the fire, first reported shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday, and was transported to Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield where he was pronounced dead. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • The American Red Cross provided relief to firefighters from several area departments who were still on the scene, on Wednesday morning, December 6, 2017, of a fire at 1524 Southampton Road home in Montgomery that was reported just before 11 a.m. on Tuesday. Montgomery Fire Chief Stephen P. Frye collapsed while battling the fire and was transported to Bay State Noble Hospital in Westfield where he was pronounced dead. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Firefighters survey what remains of a home on Southampton Road in Montgomery on Wednesday morning, December 6, 2017. Montgomery Fire Chief Stephen P. Frye collapsed while battling the fire, first reported shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday, and was transported to Bay State Noble Hospital in Westfield where he was pronounced dead. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Firefighters survey what remains of a home on Southampton Road in Montgomery, Wednesday morning. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Firefighters survey what remains of a home on Southampton Road in Montgomery on Wednesday morning, December 6, 2017. Montgomery Fire Chief Stephen P. Frye collapsed while battling the fire, first reported shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday, and was transported to Bay State Noble Hospital in Westfield where he was pronounced dead. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Firefighters from Westover Air Reserve Base, in foreground, and several other area departments remain on the scene of an overnight fire on Southampton Road in Montgomery Wednesday morning, December 6, 2017. Montgomery Fire Chief Stephen P. Frye collapsed while battling the fire, first reported shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday, and was transported to Bay State Noble Hospital in Westfield where he was pronounced dead. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING



Staff Writer
Thursday, December 07, 2017

MONTGOMERY — The town’s longtime fire chief, Stephen P. Frye, died overnight Wednesday while battling a house fire on Southampton Road.

Frye, 59, collapsed at the scene of the fire at 1524 Southampton Road. He was given immediate aid by firefighters and emergency responders with Hilltown Ambulance who were at the scene, state Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey and Montgomery Deputy Fire Chief Chris Galipeau said at a joint press conference in town Wednesday afternoon.

Frye was transported to Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield where he was pronounced dead.

“This is a small, tight-knit community and the Fire Department is like a second family to its members,” Ostroskey said in a statement. “I offer heartfelt condolences to the Frye family and the Montgomery and area fire departments on this devastating loss.”

Frye has been a member of the Montgomery Fire Department since 1993 and has been fire chief the past 13 years. He is survived by his wife, an adult son and adult daughter, all of whom live in Montgomery. His son is also a member of the volunteer Montgomery Fire Department and had responded to the fire where his father collapsed, according to the state fire marshal’s office.

The Montgomery Fire Department was decorated Wednesday with purple-and-black memorial bunting, and fellow firefighters appeared deeply affected by their colleague’s death at the press conference.

“It’s going to cripple us for quite some time,” Galipeau said of Frye’s death, noting that nothing seemed unusual with Frye when he arrived on scene.

“Chief Frye was a great person, always willing to help anyone else before himself,” Galipeau said.

“He will be deeply missed by the community and the rest of the Fire Department,” said Jacob Chapman, a lieutenant with the Fire Department and a member of the Montgomery Select Board.

A chimney fire was reported shortly after 11 p.m. While responding, firefighters received information that the fire had extended to the structure, according to state fire officials. A second alarm was called and brought mutual aid.

Montgomery Fire Department is a volunteer department and the roughly 15 firefighters are drawn from the town itself, which has a population of 838, according to the 2010 census. Montgomery does not have a hydrant system and several tankers were used to supply water. The incident required mutual aid from Huntington, Southampton, Westhampton, Westfield, Easthampton, Holyoke, Russell, Barnes Air Force Base, Hilltown Ambulance and local and state police.

“You see what they call mutual aid happen more and more often, just because no one town has the resources and firefighters are good at working together,” said Southampton Fire Chief John Workman, who was at the fire. “It really is a family, and this is a loss for the family today.”

The state has stress management teams that will be assisting department members affected by Frye’s death.

“It is such a stressful job and when something like this happens they have Critical Incident Stress teams that the state has put together that we can call on,” Workman said, praising those services as vital to the work first responders do.

“It’s hard to put into words,” said Easthampton Fire Chief David Mottor, who is also the president of the Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts. “Sadly, it’s just the nature of the beast.”

“I am heartbroken to hear of the tragic loss of Chief Stephen P. Frye,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement.

“My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the Montgomery Fire Department,” Baker said, adding that Massachusetts is “grateful for the service of the firefighters who rise to the occasion every day to keep our residents and communities safe.”

Although the residents of the home — an adult male and his mother, according to Ostroskey — were alerted to the blaze by smoke alarms, the house is considered a total loss, according to the state fire marshal’s office. It was determined to be an accidental chimney fire.

“As we now really get into the heating season, it’s a critical time to make sure that we keep warm and keep safe,” Ostroskey said.

He recommended having heating systems serviced before the season begins, making sure chimneys are clean and combustibles are cleared away.

Another chimney fire was reported Wednesday morning in Southampton, where residents were also alerted by smoke detectors and managed to escape unharmed.

This is Massachusetts’ second fire-related firefighter death this year after Watertown’s Joseph Toscano died fighting a house fire in March, according to a statement from the Department of Fire Services.

Western Massachusetts hasn’t seen a firefighter death since 2010 in Otis, and 1999 in Russell, according to the statement.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.