Funeral held for firefighter who fell ill battling blaze
BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut firefighter who died two days after falling ill at a blaze that destroyed a 19th century building was laid to rest Thursday as hundreds of emergency responders from across the region came to pay tribute.
Bagpipers and drummers played as firefighters carried the casket of Colin McFadden out of Saint Matthew Church in his hometown of Bristol, where a private service was held.
Before the casket was placed in the back of a vintage fire truck bound for St. Joseph’s Cemetery for the burial, an official rang a bell nine times to honor McFadden’s service to the fire department. Firefighters from numerous departments who gathered outside the church saluted.
“He was a keystone kind of guy that you could always count on,” Richard Lambert, captain of the Bristol Community Emergency Response Team, told The Hartford Courant. “If there was a list of people who were going to participate, he was always on the top of the list.”
The 26-year-old volunteer with the Burlington Volunteer Fire Department died at a hospital on Aug. 12 two days after collapsing at the fire in New Hartford. Relatives said he suffered a brain hemorrhage caused by an undiagnosed acute form of leukemia.
He was remembered as an active community volunteer who loved firefighting and an advocate for people with autism. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a child and spoke to state lawmakers and the media on Autism Awareness Day at the state Capitol in 2015 when he was 19, his family said in his obituary.
During the coronavirus pandemic, he helped direct traffic for testing and food distribution sites and made N95 masks on his two 3D printers for staff at UConn Health, his family said.
McFadden, who lived in Bristol not far from the Burlington firehouse he served for six years, was one of nearly 100 area firefighters who responded to the Aug. 10 blaze in New Hartford.
Two other firefighters suffered minor injuries fighting the blaze at New Hartford House, which was built in 1850 and contained businesses and apartments. None of the 22 residents was injured, but several pets went missing. The cause remains under investigation.
Gov. Ned Lamont ordered all U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff in McFadden’s honor. The order will be lifted at sunset Thursday.