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Former chief explains protocol in fatal NY house fire

The former chief said that even though the residents had escaped safely, the priority was to save the home

NEWARK VALLEY, N.Y. — A former N.Y. fire chief has explained the reasoning for sending two firefighters into a fatal house fire when the residents had escape safely.

Capt. Matthew Porcari of the Owego Fire Department died from injuries he suffered after he fell through the floor of the burning home. Lt. Daniel Gavin also fell through the floor and was seriously injured; he was recently released from the hospital.

Former Newark Valley Fire Chief Cliff Alexander told WBNG the firefighters were sent into the home, even though all residents had escaped without injury, to help stop the flames from spreading and to save the home.

"Nothing had indicated to them at that point that there was anything unsafe about it, and I think when they determined that the floor was becoming unsafe was the same time that the firemen fell through the floor," Alexander said.

The former chief added that Capt. Porcari and Lt. Gavin were not the first people to enter the building and at the time that they arrived, there seemed to still be a chance the house could have been saved.

"It was an unfortunate accident, I think the only way it could have been prevented was by not fighting the fire." Alexander said. "But our job is to go out there and save people's property and try do it as safely as possible."

The cause of the fire has been ruled accidental.

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