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North Haven Fire Department coping with deaths of two longtime members

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NORTH HAVEN — The North Haven Fire Department continues to cope with the deaths of two longtime members in the span of roughly eight months.

Fire Chief Paul Januszewski said group counseling and efforts by ranking officers have taken place to make sure the rest of the staff is OK.

“Both of these losses that we’ve had now have hit home in different ways,” Januszewski said.

The most recent loss occurred Aug. 28, when Anthony DeSimone, 50, died at his home. DeSimone collapsed after working a 38-hour shift and he couldn’t be revived at an area hospital.

“His whole life was dedicated to the fire service. It’s something he grew up wanting to do,” Januszewksi said.

DeSimone joined the fire department as a volunteer at age 17, a role he held for 10 years. He then spent 23 years as a professional firefighter.

Januszewski said others in the department looked up to DeSimone, often asking him for advice.

“As he evolved in his career and he started to get some tenure under him, he turned into the informal leader, one of the informal leaders of the department,” he said.

DeSimone leaves behind a wife, Pamela, and two children, Dominic and Victoria. Januszewski said members of the department plan to stay in contact with DeSimone’s family.

“There’s always going to be a firefighter nearby, making sure that the kids don’t need anything and watching over them,” he said.

The death comes almost eight months to the day after another member, and DeSimone’s friend, Matthias “Matt” Wirtz Jr. died.

Wirtz, 46, died while battling a fire on Dec. 26.

Januszewksi said the department has been offering peer groups to firefighters since Wirtz’s death and will continue the service.

“For some firefighters (the need for counseling) may have already taken place, for others it may take a few weeks before it hits them,” he said.

Januszewski also said he and other high-ranking officers have been watching the members to see if anyone shows signs that they need help, something he did during the first few fire calls after Wirtz’s death

Januszewski acknowledged that he has received calls from residents raising questions about the fact that DeSimone worked a 38-hour shift, but he said it’s normal for firefighters.

“A firefighter working that long is not unusual, in fact it’s quite common across the state,” he said.

Professional department members work 24 hours at a time, but also often have to pick up overtime to cover unfilled shifts, Januszewski said. DeSimone chose to pick up overtime for his last shift.

Staff can get sleep during downtime, so they’re not awake for the entire shift. Januszewski also said members will get moved to crews that typically face less work as they work more hours.

Additionally, he said all professional members undergo annual physicals to make sure they’re healthy enough for the job. 


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