BEAVERTOWN — First responders in this western Snyder County community are mourning a colleague for the third time this year following Sunday morning's death of Phillip "Craig" Ginter.
The 57-year-old Beavertown Rescue Hose Company volunteer suffered a fatal heart attack while assisting at a chicken farm fire on Pathermer Road in West Beaver Township.
"I know the fire company is overwhelmed," Beavertown Mayor Lee Hollenbach Jr. said of the death of Ginter so soon after the passing of longtime Beavertown firefighter Paul "Popeye" Saylor on Feb. 11 and Middleburg Police Chief Tony Jordan on Jan. 13. "It's hard on the community with so many losses."
On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the flag on all commonwealth facilities, public buildings and grounds in Snyder County to be flown at half-staff in Ginter's honor and invited all Pennsylvanians to join in the tribute.
Hollenbach was also notified by the U.S. Fire Administration that flags at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Maryland were lowered in honor of Ginter and the agency offered assistance to his family.
"This is just a rough time for everyone," said Ron Plummer, of the Beavertown Borough Emergency Management Office.
Ginter was providing support at the tanker filling station when he became ill.
"Craig was assisting pulling hoses when he said he needed to take a break," Plummer said. "He had shortness of breath and then said he needed an ambulance. He knew he was in trouble."
Before the ambulance arrived, Ginter fell unresponsive and a firefighter began performing CPR. Ginter was taken to Lewistown Hospital where he died, Plummer said.
Ginter's colleagues "still had a job to do" and continued to fight the fire at the farm of John and Sue Beachel.
"It's trying but that's what they're trained for, to take on whatever tragedy pops up," said Snyder County Commissioner and volunteer firefighter Adam Ewig.
Hollenbach said Ginter's fellow firefighters will be "debriefed" Tuesday and receive counseling if needed.
Sue Beachel posted a message on Facebook expressing condolences to Ginter's family and gratitude to the firefighters for their service.
"(We) would like to thank all the firefighters and the multiple companies that came out to our farm ... to do the best they could to save what they could," she wrote."And to the family of the fallen firefighter who was at the pump station helping, to help us. We are sorry for the loss of your loved one. We thank you for his service to the community."
State police fire marshal James Nizinski said the fire destroyed the building and killed 13,000 hens and 1,000 roosters. The structural loss was valued at about $800,000 but Nizinski didn't know the financial loss of the flock.
"The fire is undetermined at this point, but is not suspicious," he said. "The investigation is continuing."