Oxford Fire Chief Gary Sacco died Sunday while in Portland for the public memorial service for the late Berwick Fire Capt. Joel Barnes.

“Our hearts, already broken by the loss of Captain Joel Barnes, also mourn the loss of Oxford Fire Chief Gary Sacco,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement Sunday night. “In a testament to his own character, Chief Sacco lost his life while honoring that of his fallen brother, fellow firefighter Captain Barnes.”

“I join with people across Maine in offering my thoughts and prayers to Chief Sacco’s family and friends, the Oxford Fire Department, and all of Maine’s first responders. The state of Maine has given two of its best to the Heavens,” Mills said.

Barnes died March 1 from injuries sustained while fighting an apartment building fire in Berwick.

The town of Oxford’s Fire and Rescue Department posted a statement on Facebook late Sunday night that said Sacco, 63, died of an unknown medical problem after being “rushed to Maine Medical Center.”

“Chief Sacco was a consummate professional. Not only did he love the job, he had a passion for the fire service like no other. Chief Sacco was a respected leader, mentor and positive role model,” the department said.


Capt. John Brennan, a spokesman for the Portland Fire Department, was not authorized to confirm that it was Sacco who died, but did say that around 10 a.m. – one hour before the memorial service for Barnes was scheduled to begin – a Portland firetruck and ambulance responded to the area of the Holiday Inn by the Bay on Spring Street for a medical call.

Maine Medical Center spokesman Matt Wickenheiser confirmed that Sacco was stricken, rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead in the emergency room, The Associated Press reported.

The Holiday Inn by the Bay is located a few hundred feet away from the Cross Insurance Arena, where the service for Barnes was held.

Scott Hunter, who worked with Sacco at Oxford Fire and Rescue, told the Sun Journal in Lewiston: “He was exactly what the town needed at the department when they hired him. He did a great job for the town, and I liked working with him.”

Hunter said when he left the fire station Friday, he told Sacco to “have a good weekend.”

“Then this happens,” he said. “You just never know. He’ll be missed.”


On Sunday, Sacco “was obviously around a lot of very skilled emergency personnel, but sometimes that’s not enough,” said Lt. Steve Cordwell of Oxford Fire and Rescue.

The Oxford Fire and Rescue Department said that funeral services for Sacco are being coordinated with his family and will be announced soon.

Sacco was named Oxford’s fire chief in June 2017.

“I’m more than happy to be here,” he told the Oxford Board of Selectmen after being appointed chief. “I’m looking forward to continued service in the town of Oxford.”

Before going to Oxford, Sacco was the fire chief in New Gloucester, where he was responsible for supervising 45 fire, rescue and auxiliary personnel.

Sacco retired from the New Gloucester Fire Department in October 2015 after serving 12 years. He had been hired as New Gloucester’s first full-time chief in 2007 after being paid a stipend as chief since 2003.

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