Quaker Hill firefighters lose one of their own
Waterford house blaze victim had served in department
By IZASKUN E. LARRAÑETA
May 9, 2008
Waterford - When Quaker Hill firefighters arrived at a structure fire at 4 Woodworth Drive late Wednesday night, they recognized the address and knew that one of their own lived there.
Quaker Hill Fire Chief Matthew Carson said firefighters were responding to a call on Dunbar Road for the smell of propane around 11:05 p.m. and, as they drove by, they could smell smoke in the area.
Carson said a Quaker Hill ambulance that was supposed to join them at the Dunbar assignment spotted smoke and immediately reported it as a working structure fire. The address was the home of 55-year-old Frank Mather, a fire policeman for the company.
Mather died in the fire.
Carson said things got a bit“chaotic” once they learned that Mather could still be inside the home. He said the initial urge was to rush into the home, but that couldn't be done without putting further lives at risk.
He ensured order and made certain that firefighters entered the home safely. Firefighters conducted sweeps of the home. Mather was found in the basement. He was whisked into an ambulance and died at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital from injuries he sustained in the fire, police said.
”It's always tough when it's one of your own,” Carson said.“The biggest thing was to control the situation and make sure that everything is done in a safe manner.”
Carson said he didn't know Mather very well. Mather joined the Quaker Hill Fire Company in the early 1990s, but personal problems and a new business did not let him be an active member of the department in recent years.
”He was a nice, decent guy,” Carson said.
A regional Critical Stress Debriefing team was at the firehouse Thursday evening to talk to emergency personnel at the scene, Carson said.
Early Thursday morning police and fire personnel as well as the town and state fire marshals were on scene. Officials had no comment as the fire is still under investigation.
The small, single-family home was cordoned off with yellow tape. It is located on a dead-end street off Old Norwich Road on a steep hill. A gaping hole pierced the right side of the home. The roof was also speckled with holes.
Carson said the fire was“knocked down” within 15 minutes. Firefighters used chain saws, axes and other tools to open up the walls and roof.
More than a half-dozen firetrucks and about two dozen firefighters were on the scene. All five Waterford fire companies along with a Mohegan FAST team responded.
Gary Mather, the victim's brother, said he is still reeling over the March 1 death of his sister Judy Sylvia, who died of pancreatic cancer.
Mather said he is the last of five siblings, losing three to cancer and his brother to the fire.
”I'm in shock,” Mather said.“I really think God is testing me. It's been a tough road.”
Mather said officials have not told him what may have caused the fire.
He said his brother was in the process of getting a divorce and had one son.
He described his brother as a“workaholic,” working the second shift at Electric Boat, where he was an electrician for more than 20 years. During the day he ran his own business, Sparkle Pool Services.
“He was a good guy,” said Mather.“I'm at a loss.”