BURRILLVILLE, R.I. (WPRI) – A Pascoag volunteer firefighter who died Wednesday after being rushed from the scene of a chimney fire is being remembered as a generous, spirited man who was dedicated to helping others.
Lt. Richard Jenks collapsed outside a home on Hill Road, Deputy Chief Keith Carter said, after tripping and falling inside.
Jenks, 72, was helped up by his fellow firefighters and brought outside to be checked out by EMTs. The other firefighters said Jenks wanted to go back inside to help fight the fire, but he then collapsed.
“He refused right until the last minute,” Carter said. “He always put himself behind the next person in front of him.”
CPR was performed on Jenks before he was taken to Landmark Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The cause of his death is pending the results of an autopsy by the state medical examiner’s office.
Firefighters were still on the scene of the fire when they got the bad news, removing their helmets and bowing their heads in silence.
“Every day, people should really count their blessings,” Carter said. “Because when that alarm rings, you just don’t know. You don’t know.”
Carter said Jenks was a father and a grandfather, and a volunteer with the Pascoag Fire Department for 33 years. He said Jenks was retired after a 41-year career as a lineman for the Pascoag Utility District, and was also a U.S. Air Force Veteran.
His age hadn’t slowed him down, according to Carter.
“The man never stopped,” Carter said. “Never. Seven days a week…he looked like a bodybuilder.”
Jenks’ death was the first in the line of duty in the Pascoag Fire Department’s 114-year history.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been set.