Family Fueled Capt. Porcari's Dedication

By Kelly McCarthy

January 22, 2013 Updated Jan 22, 2013 at 8:35 PM EDT

Owego, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Like a family, the volunteers at the Owego Fire Department look after each other, especially when their safety is on the line.

That's what makes the past 12 hours difficult -- sometimes that effort falls short. That's why it's called an accident. And that's why it's tragic.

Volunteers shared what happened in the moments Capt. Mathew Porcari and Daniel Gavin fell through the burning floor of 871 Chamberlain Rd. in Newark Valley.

Porcari fell all the way to the home's the basement. Daniel Gavin was able to catch and eventually free himself.

Firefighters say Gavin worked himself back to the first floor, and, despite being burned, stayed to try to help rescue the fallen Porcari.

Porcari's family and the brotherhood at the Owego Fire Department are focused on keeping his memory alive.

Porcari's uncle, Owego Lt. Lee Dunham, unlocked a cabinet Tuesday afternoon, pulled out his helmet and held it tightly in his arms, bringing to the surface memories of fighting fires with his nephew.

"Well this one's mine, and it means the world that Matt had his. I'll wear this with so much pride because he's a hero. He's a hero," Dunham said, with tears in his eyes.

Porcari's cubby at the firehouse is now empty. No coat. No boots. No helmet featuring the word "Captain."

"I had to leave to go get more water, we shuttled water back and forth from a local pond, and Chief Jim Morris told me that it was Matty, my nephew, it hit me hard. It hit me hard," Dunham said.

Family came first for the 34-year-old Porcari.

His uncle says Porcari's wife and two children can rest assured knowing everything he did was in his family's honor.

"My father, which is Matt's grandfather, was a firefighter. His grandfather was a firefighter. His dad was a firefighter," Dunham said. "So we're in a firefighter community here. And we're all brothers and we all look after one another here and we got each other's backs. Matt was just one of those guys that everybody loved."

From his decision to join his specific company, known as the "Flat Rats," to how he spent his free time, Dunham said his nephew's family was always his inspiration.

"His father was a great bowler and Matt has bowled some 300 games and he was talking about getting into the press doubles," Dunham said. "He really enjoyed bowling."

Porcari's dedication and compassion will keep his memory alive.

"He was a great father, he was a great brother to his sister, a great husband to his wife, he was a great nephew to me," Dunham said. "I cherished every moment I had with him.

"His wife told me all the time that Matt looked up to me as his uncle," he added, tears welling. "And that's going to be tough. It's going to be tough."

Dunham and other volunteers at the Owego Fire Department will drive the fire truck once led by Porcari to pick up his remains at Wilson Hospital in Johnson City.