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N.Y. firefighter dies after suffering heart attack at fire 2+ months ago

Peter Dromms was North Syracuse’s longest serving member and had served as the department’s volunteer fire chief and in other leadership roles

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By Catie O’Toole

NORTH SYRACUSE, N.Y. — North Syracuse’s longest serving, active firefighter has died 2 1/2 months after he suffered a heart attack at the scene of a house fire in the village.

Firefighter Peter Dromms, a 55-year veteran of the North Syracuse Fire Department, died Saturday. He was 77.

Dromms had surgery after his heart attack, was released from the hospital, but quickly returned a day or two later due to complications, North Syracuse Fire Chief Pat Brennan said.

Shortly before midnight on Jan. 13, Dromms was helping with exterior operations, staging lights and moving fans, trying to help get fresh air into a house on fire in the 600 block of Chestnut Street, the chief said.

Dromms walked over to a fellow firefighter and a former EMT, and said he wasn’t feeling well, the chief said. He appeared pale and sweaty, he said.

Firefighters alerted NAVAC ambulance crews who were already on the scene because initially it was thought an elderly person might be inside.

Dromms was having a heart attack, Brennan said.

NAVAC transported Dromms to St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse.

Dromms had surgery and eventually went home, but was quickly readmitted to the hospital after complications, Brennan said.

Dromms, who seemed to be doing better, called the chief Friday afternoon from the hospital.

“The day before he died, he called me from the hospital to thank me for taking care of his wife,” Brennan said. “We talked about some fire department stuff. It was a good conversation...”

Less than 24 hours later, Dromms was pronounced dead.

“We never, ever expected this,” Brennan said after leaving Dromms’ home Sunday evening. “He had no heart condition. This was the first time he experienced anything like this. He passed his physical (last April).”

After Dromms had a heart attack, fellow North Syracuse volunteer firefighters stepped up since they knew he was his wife’s primary caregiver, Brennan said. They set up Meals on Wheels so Dromms’ wife had good meals and they took her to the store because she doesn’t drive; others shoveled their driveway when it snowed, the chief said.

“To us, it’s no big deal, but when he was in the hospital, he appreciated someone was looking out for his family,” Brennan said. “It’s a family affair.”

Dromms graduated from North Syracuse High School in 1963 and served in the Vietnam War with the U.S. Navy, according to his obituary. He later worked for Verizon, retiring after 36 years.

He joined the North Syracuse Fire Department on Nov. 7, 1967.

He served as the department’s volunteer fire chief, as well as the North Syracuse Firefighter’s Association’s president, treasurer and other positions throughout the years. He also was qualified to drive every piece of apparatus and responded frequently, Brennan said.

On his last call this winter, Dromms was driving what Brennan described as “one of the most sophisticated pieces of apparatus we have in the organization.” Truck 1 has a 100-foot ladder, the chief said.

“Sometimes fire departments struggle with manpower for nighttime alarms,” Brennan said.

But Dromms not only responded to calls in North Syracuse, he also volunteered at the Old Forge Fire Department where he had a camp and visited each summer, his chief said.

“I’m telling you, he was a rock,” Brennan said. “For 77 years old, he had the drive and ambition of an 18-year-old.”

Dromms is survived by his wife, Gail, and daughters, Jennifer and Patricia. He will be laid to rest with military honors Friday at North Syracuse Cemetery.

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