- Wayne Baker Breaking News Staff
The death of a 28-year-old Hamilton firefighter early Monday morning was the department’s first in the line of duty since 1971.
Patrick Wolterman died Monday from injuries he sustained while battling a blaze in a Hamilton home, according to Fire Chief Steve Dawson.
“Our city is in mourning with the loss of one of our heroes,” Hamilton Safety Director J. Scott Scrimizzi said in an emotional press conference just hours after Wolterman’s death. “This is an extremely stressful time on our firefighters.”
Fire officials said crews responding to a fire call at about 1:12 a.m. found heavy smoke coming from three sides of a home in the 1300 block of Pater Avenue. Dawson said firefighters, including Wolterman, moved into the house.
“Shortly after the initial attack, there was a catastrophic event,” Dawson said. He said Wolterman fell through the home’s first floor and into the basement.
A mayday call was made at 1:20 a.m., Dawson said.
Fellow firefighters rescued Wolterman from the basement and performed CPR, but he died at Fort Hamilton Hospital, officials said.
Other units extinguished the fire, Dawson said. The ongoing investigation is being led by state fire marshals.
There were initial reports that people were inside the home when the fire broke out, but relatives told the Journal-News that the couple, who had lived in the home for decades, was away on vacation.
Wolterman was hired April 25 as a paramedic firefighter in Hamilton and assigned to Station 25 in the north end of the city, Dawson said.
He worked part time for the Fairfield Twp. Fire Department from April 2014 until he was hired in Hamilton.
“He was very friendly and very interested in the profession of firefighting,” said Fairfield Twp. Fire Chief Timothy Thomas.
Wolterman was a 2005 graduate of Roger Bacon High School in Cincinnati and earned an associates degree in fire service from the University of Cincinnati in 2011.
“Patrick was my brother,” IAFF Local 20 President Brian Ruhl said of the firefighter who was married in May.
In fire service tradition, a uniformed Hamilton Firefighter Honor Guard will stay with Wolterman’s body until it is laid to rest, according to Ruhl.
“Our brother will not be left alone,” he said.
Donations for the family can be made at any First Financial Bank, said Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith in a press release.
“There is no greater sacrifice than risking your life for someone else’s and firefighter Wolterman did just that,” Smith said in the statement. “We cherish and respect those who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect us.”
Wolterman was a tremendous example of the type of high-quality, courageous individual that protects and serves the city, Mayor Patrick Moeller said.
“When a public servant dies in the line of duty protecting our citizens, that defines tragedy for the family and for the city,” he said. “Looking into the eyes of firefighter Wolterman’s brother firefighters, one can see the deep loss and pain. Numerous citizens have expressed their condolences through me to the Hamilton Fire Department on the loss of a true hero. Pray, really pray, for Patrick’s wife, family, and his firefighter family.”
911 calls placed early Monday morning indicated firefighters were initially told there were “possible elderly occupants” in the Pater Avenue residence.
“Officer on the scene advising heavy black smoke from the residence,” the Butler County dispatcher said when dispatching firefighters to the residence.
Relatives told the Journal-News that Lester and Bertha Parker, who had lived in the home for decades, were away on vacation.
Melissa Lainhart said her parents were in Las Vegas celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary.
“I’m thankful that my parents were not home,” she told the Journal-News. “But I feel badly for the family of the firefighter that was killed.”
Lainhart said her father’s oxygen tanks were located on the top level of the house.
“I’m just wondering if that made the fire spread,” she said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Dawson said.
Cheryl Sullivan, of Cincinnati, was overcome with emotion Monday as she talked to her parents on the phone.
“My parents are older and if they were here maybe they would’ve not woke up and not got out,” she said.
Lester Parker told the Journal-News that he is not sure if he and his wife will return to the home after the tragedy that occurred there.
“The house can be replaced, but the firefighter’s life cannot,” he said.
Kraiden Lainhart, 19, said generations of her family had been raised in the home.
“I’m thankful (firefighters) do their job, but I hate hearing (of Wolterman’s death) … they’re a team, the union brothers and sisters lost a member and their actual family lost a member … that’s not something easy to take at all,” she said.View full experience