Veteran firefighter, father of 5 dies after collapsing at scene of Watertown fire

WATERTOWN, MASS. (WHDH) - Officials said a firefighter who collapsed and died Friday morning while responding to a two-alarm blaze in Watertown was a longtime veteran of the department and a father to five children.

The fire broke out just before 10:30 a.m. at a single-family home on Merrifield Ave. Crews were greeted by heavy flames burning on the second floor of the home when they arrived.

Police Chief Michael Lawn said the firefighter, later identified as 54-year-old Joseph Toscano, was inside the home working to extinguish the flames when he collapsed. Crews performed CPR before he was rushed to Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, where he was pronounced dead. His cause of death is not clear.

Toscano, a Randolph native, had been with the Watertown Fire Department since 1996.

Firefighters could be seen arriving at Mount Auburn Hospital to offer support to each other and to Toscano’s family.

“This is the most difficult day for firefighters,” Fire Chief Mario Orangio said. “This is a tremendous blow to this department.”

Related: Around the region, prayers for Watertown FD after firefighter dies

Lawn said two residents and several pets were rescued from the home. They were transported to the hospital for treatment. Their condition is unknown.

A witness said a woman in the home came outside with black soot all over her face and tried to go back inside to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher.

“There were flames coming out of the house like crazy,” a neighbor told 7News.

The flames have since been knocked down, but fire officials and investigators remain at the scene as they work to determine the cause of the fire.

“He’d do anything for you. He had a heart of gold. He’s going to missed,” Local 1347 President Rob Mannix said.

Toscano leaves behind a wife, three boys and two girls. His youngest was just 12 years old.

“He was a good firefighter. He was a smart man. I could rely on him to do anything I needed,” Watertown Deputy Fire Chief Bob Quinn said of Toscano.

A joint investigation has been launched with the state fire marshal’s office and the Middlesex County DA’s office. At this time, officials said the fire does not appear to to be suspicious.

Officials said Toscano is the first firefighter in Watertown to die in the line of duty since the 1950s.

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