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WORCESTER, Mass. (WLNE) - A community is mourning a hero.

First responders and the public lined up as far as the eye could see Sunday outside the Mercadante Funeral Home in Worcester, paying their respects to a fallen firefighter, Lt. Jason Menard.

"Obviously tremendous sadness right now," Chief Michael Lavoie, with the Worcester Fire Department, said. "The community has come out in an amazing way to support our fire department, which obviously we need at this time."

Menard died Wednesday after he and his crew went into a Worcester home to look for a woman and baby reportedly trapped on the third floor.

Menard helped two of his colleagues escape but was unable to get out himself.  

Worcester is a city that's lost more than its fair share of firefighters.

"Unfortunately this community's become all too familiar with how to do that, and how to support this community in trying times," said  Worcester City Manager I couldn't be prouder of the Worcester Fire Department."

Worcester firefighters were the first group to enter the wake, followed by police, EMS, and other firefighters from throughout the region.

"I'm honored and humbled to really thank the people of Worcester, the people of the state of Massachusetts and across the country for all their continued support," said Mayor Joseph Petty, (D) Worcester. "We're going to need it as we go forward."

Firefighter Chris Pace, who Menard saved in the blaze, remains hospitalized in stable condition, and officials say he has a long road to recovery.

There is also a fund to support the Menard children, who were supposed to go on a family trip to Disney with their father the day he died.

"The families are staying strong, and that's because the community has rallied around behind them," said Lt. Michael Papagni, of Worcester Fire Local 1009. "Our firefighters are staying strong, and standing by each other."

The Worcester Fire Chief said the department is prioritizing mental health for its members as they try to heal. 

"The toughest part of losing a member of our fire department is the emotional scars," Chief Lavoie said. "It changes you, it changes your life. No matter who you are."

On Monday morning, a procession of firefighters will assemble in Washington Square ahead of Menard's funeral, which will be at 11 a.m. at St. John's Church in Worcester.

He will be buried immediately after the funeral at St. John's Cemetery on Cambridge Street.

Thousands of mourners are expected to attend the service.   

Menard, 39, leaves behind a wife and three children.

The fund for Menard's children has been established at the Worcester Fire Department Credit Union:

Worcester Fire Department Credit Union

34 Glennie St.

Worcester, MA 01605

Checks should be made payable to the PFFM Foundation c/o The Menard Children’s Fund.

 

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