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Final respects paid to fallen North Haven firefighter Tuesday

NORTH HAVEN — Nearly 1,000 firefighters attended funeral services Tuesday morning for North Haven firefighter Matthias Wirtz, a 22-year veteran of the department who died after collapsing at the scene of a two-alarm blaze on Dec. 26.

A funeral service was held for Wirtz, 46, at St. Elizabeth of Trinity Parish at St. Barnabas Church. He was honored with a line-of-duty death funeral protocol.

Firefighters throughout Connecticut, and some as far as Massachusetts, came out and honored the veteran firefighter.

“Our focus today will be on the membership and the family of our fallen brother, firefighter Matthias Wirtz,” North Haven Fire Chief Paul Januszewski said in a statement. “Today will be about reflecting on the life of firefighter Wirtz and his dedication to the fire department. For all of us, this last week has been challenging, and we’re thankful for all of the support from neighboring fire departments, police departments, and the North Haven community. Today as a department, we will grieve together, tomorrow, we will start the healing process, and in the future, we’ll be stronger together.”

At the service, there were readings from Christopher Springer and Sandy (Cocco) Weber. Eulogies were read by Juergen Weber, firefighter Thomas Haggerty, president of the North Haven Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 2987, and Januszewski.

Fire officials said last week that Wirtz was battling a four-family house fire on Quinnipiac Avenue when he collapsed outside the building. He had been operating the water lines. He was provided medical care on the scene and was then taken to Yale New Haven Hospital with life-threatening injuries. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Later in the week, the chief medical examiner listed Wirtz’s cause of death as hypertensive and cardiovascular disease, with additional contributing factors. Additionally, the manner of death is listed as natural causes.

“Firefighter Wirtz was actively working under extreme environmental conditions to protect the lives of the occupants and fellow members of his crew inside the building,” Januszewski said. “Firefighter Wirtz remained steadfast at his post, ensuring their safety with disregard for his own, and is a hero for his actions and ultimate sacrifice for others.”

Wirtz was a member of Northeast Fire Co. 4. Engine 9, which was used the night of the call on Dec. 26, has been out of service. It was Engine 9 that escorted Wirtz’s fire gear and urn during the procession to St. Elizabeth of Trinity Parish at St. Barnabas Church on Tuesday morning.

In addition to being a veteran of the fire department, he was a security guard for Hopkins School in New Haven. He taught future firefighters at Gateway Community College’s fire program. 

While his passion was firefighting, he also had a musical side and was a snare drummer with the New Haven County Emerald Society Pipes and Drums. He was also a member of the Meriden Turner Society, a German club on Old Colony Road.

The society wrote on its Facebook page on Dec. 26 that they were saddened by the passing of Wirtz. Wirtz and his father, Matthias L., had been members of the Turner Society for over 15 years before his father’s passing in late 2021.

Wirtz and his father had been known to frequently come down on Thursday nights to play cards with other members.

When Wirtz became a firefighter with Northeast’s Fire Co. 4 in 1996, he became a decorated department member. On Sept. 11, 2001, Wirtz rushed to Manhattan to assist at Ground Zero.

“Matthias will be greatly missed by the members of the Meriden Turner Society, but his bravery will forever live on with all that knew him. Thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Wirtz family, as well as his brothers and sisters in the North Haven Fire Department,” the Meriden Turner Society wrote on their Facebook page.

Members of the New Haven County Emerald Society Pipes and Drums were present at the funeral and spoke about the loss of their member.

“Matthias was a 20-year member of the band and was a snare drummer,” Band Manager Mike Torino said. “He was just a great person.”

Thomas Gorman, captain of the Somerville Fire Department in Massachusetts, said it was a matter of two hours before he found out about Wirtz.

“Word travels fast in the fire circle, and when I found out about it on Twitter, I immediately made plans for our department to come over.

The Somerville department came to North Haven on Monday night and met with North Haven Fire Department members. Members that traveled to North Haven visited the North Haven Elks Lodge and met with Haggerty, the North Haven firefighters’ union president.

Januszewski said that the condolences have been overwhelming and said in a statement that throughout the rest of the day, he and any other Chief Officer of the North Haven Fire Department would not be available for comments or interviews.



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