MOUNT VERNON — City firefighter Kevin Townes, 54, collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack this morning as he prepared to fight a house fire, officials said.
Townes, 54, of Hopewell Junction, was a 25-year member of the department. He leaves his wife, three daughters and a son. The children range from 12 to 24 years old.
Townes collapsed after putting on his gear to battle a basement fire in a single-family house at 124 Lorraine Ave., fire officials said. A fellow firefighter trained as a paramedic revived him briefly at the scene, but he collapsed again and was pronounced dead at Mount Vernon Hospital.
Mayor Clinton Young said: “He wanted to help this community out as a firefighter. It’s a major loss to the community.”
Gregory Lee, a first cousin of Townes’, said: “He was a good father and husband and God-fearing man.”
The fire department received a call about an odor of smoke at the Lorraine Avenue home at 2:43 a.m. Townes was driving the third truck to arrive. Firefighters determined there was a fire and Townes was told to put on his gear and get ready to go in. He put on his gear, then collapsed into bushes outside the home, officials said.
A firefighter-paramedic shocked his heart twice with a defibrilator. Townes revived and sat up briefly, then collapsed again. An ambulance crew shocked him a third time, but he did not respond. Efforts continued at Mount Vernon Hospital, but Townes was pronounced dead at 4:06 a.m.
Twenty-two firefighters fought the fire, and the blaze was declared under control at 4:04 a.m. There was no immediate word on the cause.
Townes was the first Mount Vernon firefighter to die in the line of duty since Dennis Joseph Mullins Jr. Mullins collapsed of a heart attack Jan. 12, 1994, as he connected a hose from a pumper to a fire hydrant at a fire on West Fifth Street. He never woke up from a coma and died Jan. 18, 1995.
Townes grew up in White Plains, attended White Plains High School and graduated from New Rochelle High School. He played high school football. He spent four years in the Marines, then worked at the General Motors auto-assembly plant in Sleepy Hollow, before joining the fire department.
Townes leaves his wife, Patricia; daughters Jazmine, 24, Blair, 20, and Rebecca, 13; and son Kevin Jr., 12. Townes’ mother, Sylvia Townes, a retired postal worker from Mount Vernon, who had just moved from Mount Vernon to live with Townes’ family.
Family members said he was very close to his son.
“He was always talking about Kevin, little Kevin. Kevin this. Kevn that,” said Lee, his cousin.
Grief counselors were dispatched to Mount Vernon firehouses for any firefighters who felt the need to talk.
Fire Commissioner Noah Lighty said firefighters were “holding up.”
“They’re troupers. At the same time they have heavy hearts,” the commissioner said.
Mayor Young said: “Any loss of a public servant is a loss not just to government but to the city as a whole. This one was pretty deep.”