HARTLAND, Maine — As firefighters and community members struggled with the loss of Hartland firefighter Michael Snowman, 49, who died of a heart attack suffered at a house fire in Detroit Monday, plans were being made for his funeral.
Snowman, who was a Hartland firefighter for more than 25 years, leaves a wife, Laureen, and three grown children. He was active in his community and church and was highly respected by his fellow firefighters.
“A lot of us are still in shock,” Detroit Fire Chief Don Chute said Tuesday afternoon. “It really has not set in. We are awestruck and it’s too soon to really comprehend this loss.”
Snowman arrived at the 8 a.m. fire and was working the controls on a pumper truck when he collapsed. Rescue workers on the scene provided immediate first aid. Snowman was taken first to Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield and then airlifted to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor where he died just before noon.
“It hurts,” Chute said. “We’re human. Someone said last night that grieving is the price you pay for love. We loved Mike.”
Capt. Tim Kuespert of the Hartland Fire Department said his firefighters “were doing well,” and that a “defusing” gathering held Monday night at the Pittsfield Fire Department helped a lot.
Snowman’s funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, at the First Baptist Church in Hartland. After the service, firefighters from all over the state will march to the Hartland Fire Station on Route 23 for a Last Call Ceremony.
Burial will follow at the Detroit Village Cemetery.
Chute said the Detroit Fire Station would be open for a celebration of Snowman’s life after the burial.
Condolences to area firefighters and the Snowman family have been arriving from fire departments across the country by phone and e-mail, and hundreds of Maine firefighters are expected to attend the funeral.
Gov. John E. Baldacci expressed his condolences to Snowman’s wife.
“I join with the family, friends and community members who are today mourning the tragic loss of Michael Snowman,” Baldacci said. “Our firefighters put their lives on the line daily for the people of Maine. Michael was a valued public servant and his loss is one felt across the state.”
Baldacci will direct that the United States flag and the state of Maine flag be flown at half-staff in Hartland on the day of his funeral.
Meanwhile, people across the state are responding to the Wheeler family’s loss, the family of three whose home was lost to the fire.
The Red Cross has provided temporary housing for Madeline Wheeler and her sons Nathan, 8, and William, 14.
Maine Central Institute Wellness Center is accepting donations of items and cash. William Wheeler is a freshman at the school.
Items and donations for the family also can be left or sent to both the Detroit Fire Station and the Detroit Town Office.
Chute said a fund at the Bangor Savings Bank in Hartland is being established for the Snowman family.
Fire investigators determined late Monday that an overloaded electrical outlet that was blocked by clothing and bedding was the cause of the fire. The family was not insured.