Veteran Watertown firefighter dies after collapsing at scene of fire

WATERTOWN, MA (WHDH) - A firefighter died Friday morning after he collapsed while responding to a house fire in Watertown.

The fire broke out just before 10:30 a.m. on the second floor of a house on Merrifield Avenue. 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.

Watertown Police Chief Michael Lawn said 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 Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, where he was pronounced dead. His cause of death is unknown at the time.

Lawn said two residents and several pets were rescued from the home. The two residents were taken to the hospital for treatment and are expected to be OK.

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

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

Toscano is survived by his wife of 25 years, Maureen, three sons and two daughters. The family lived in Randolph, where Toscano designed and built their home.

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

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

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

Statement from Toscano family:

“Our family is devastated by the loss we suffered today as our loving husband and father was taken from us suddenly while responding to a fire. Joe took immense pride and joy in being a husband to Maureen, his wife of 25 years, and dad to Alyssa, Patrick, Mary Cate, William and Michael. You can see Joe’s warmth, kindness, curiosity for life and love of the outdoors reflected in his five extraordinary children. Family was at the center of Joe’s life and defined him. Along with being an exceptional husband, father, brother, uncle, son-in-law and friend to many, Joe loved being a Watertown Firefighter.

Joe was a master craftsman. He built the home he shared with his family with his own hands. A gourmet chef, Joe was known for his pizzas and his special mussels dish and was the unofficial Watertown Fire Station chef. Joe always made time for you — regardless of what he was doing. He was a man of great integrity and honor. Joe’s work ethic, generosity and kindness touched everyone he knew. He was a dedicated and energetic volunteer at Incarnation Camp of Connecticut, which he attended as a child and worked at as an adult for nearly four decades.

This is an unthinkable loss for our family. Joe’s loving spirit will be with us forever.”

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