BOSTON — Firefighters across the state of Massachusetts woke up to terrible news Wednesday morning.
In the middle of the night, a member of their first responder family had been killed in the line of duty.
Worcester Fire Lt. Jason Menard, 39, was overcome by flames as he helped rescue two members of his crew from the upper floors of a burning home.
"It's sad, it's a tragedy...it's part of the job," Weston Fire Chief David Soar told Boston 25 News. "It's always in the back of your mind that it could happen."
That's why firefighters, police and EMS lined bridges in the bitter cold Wednesday morning to stand and salute as the body of Menard passed through town after town en route to the medical examiner's office in Boston.
"It's just a show of respect," Chief Soar explained. "It's a family, it could happen to any one of us at any time, so we need to be there for each other."
In a press conference announcing Menard's passing Wednesday morning, union president Michael Papagni described Jason as a member of the family who will be missed.
"He had a true passion for the job," Papagni said.
He went on to note that Menard, his wife and their three children were set to fly to Disney World later Wednesday morning.
But instead of driving the Massachusetts Turnpike to Logan Airport with no fanfare, Menard's body was escorted by police cars and saluted by members of his firefighting family from across the state.
"So we wanted to come out and show our support for our brother that passed away in the line of duty," Soar said. "A lot of [drivers] waved and saluted as they went by."
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker spoke at a press conference on Wednesday to offer his condolences to the Menard family and the Worcester Fire Department.
"We can't say this enough: first responders wake up every morning, answer every call, never knowing what surprise what may be in store for them," Baker said.
It's been nearly one year since the Worcester Fire Department lost Christopher Roy in a similar incident last December and nearly 20 years since the same department lost six of its members in the tragic Cold Storage Fire of 1999.
In the City of Worcester, what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year, is a time often marked with tragedy. Year after year, as the holidays approach, the city mixes the happy with the sad.
For nearly two decades, people have gathered to remember the Worcester Six, the six first responders who died in the Cold Storage Fire on Dec. 3, 1999.
Just a few days later, on Dec. 8, the city will remember Jon Davies, a firefighter who died in 2011 in the line of duty.
"We’ve been here for 10 years and so many of these firefighters have become our family and you know we have been here for the Worcester 6 anniversaries, we’ve been here for Jon Davies last year we were here for Chris Roy and unfortunately we are back here again," said Tara Mara.
Amid all the tragedy, the deaths of the Worcester Six prompted massive changes that have been credited with saving many firefighters' lives.
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