By Paul Steven GhiringhelliApril 23, 2010
FORT DRUM, N.Y. - A young Fort Drum firefighter, dedicated to protecting the communities in which he lived and served, died in the line of duty Sunday.
Garrett W. Loomis, 26, an assistant fire chief with Sackets Harbor Volunteer Fire Department and a full-time employee of the Fort Drum Fire Department, left the fire station in his native Sackets Harbor on Sunday morning in response to a burning silo on a dairy farm in Hounsfield.
Loomis apparently climbed the silo to investigate and was on his way back down when the structure exploded, according to an official preliminary report.
"I know that I am safely speaking for the entire Fort Drum community of Soldiers, Families and civilians when I say that this is a tragedy that touches us all," said Col. Kenneth Riddle, Fort Drum garrison commander. "Our thoughts and prayers are, and will be, with the family of Garrett Loomis."
A memorial service in honor of the fallen firefighter will take place at 1 p.m. today in the Sackets Harbor Central School gymnasium.
Loomis was promoted to assistant fire chief in Sackets Harbor less than two weeks before his death.
According to a friend and co-worker, Loomis was considered a dear neighbor and an integral part of the community he served and loved. Jason Brunet, Fort Drum assistant fire chief and also a Sackets Harbor volunteer firefighter, called Loomis a longtime family friend whose death is both tragic and painful for those who knew him well.
"Garrett was not only a colleague but a true friend," Brunet said. "This has been a devastating blow for the entire Loomis family and his extended family, from the Sackets Harbor Fire Department to the Fort Drum Fire Department."
Revealing the impact of the tragedy, "In Memory of Firefighter Garrett," a Facebook page created after Loomis' death, gained more than 2,000 members in less than 24 hours.
"This incredible young man dedicated his life, and ultimately gave his absolute all, pursuing a better, safer place for his community and neighbors," Riddle said. "His dedication and willingness to sacrifice will forever be remembered."
Loomis graduated from Sackets Harbor Central School in 2001, where he was named Top Male Athlete for his talented play in basketball, soccer and baseball.
Before returning to the North Country as a firefighter last year, he earned a bachelor's degree from the University of South Carolina in 2006, graduated the New York State Fire Academy in 2007 and worked for the Wilmington (N.C.) Fire Department for more than a year.
He became a Fort Drum firefighter in January 2009.
"In the fire service, this is absolutely as bad as it gets," Brunet said. "Losing a brother firefighter impacts everyone in the fire service."
The silo explosion Sunday was at the same dairy farm where ano
ther fire last week destroyed a barn and 100 head of cattle, according to Jefferson County officials.
The cause of both fires remains under investigation.
Brunet said a scholarship fund has been set up to benefit individuals interested in professional fire-related services. It is called the Garrett W. Loomis Scholarship Fund, in care of Sackets Harbor Central School, P.O. Box 290, Sackets Harbor, N.Y. 13685.
Loomis is survived by his parents, Gary and Amy (Summerville) Loomis of Sackets Harbor, and two brothers, Benjamin and Bryan.