On December 6, 2017, Chief Stephen P. Frye lost his life while battling a house fire in Montgomery, Massachusetts. Chief Frye had 25 years of service with the Montgomery Fire Department, becoming deputy fire chief in 1997 and fire chief in 1999. On that fateful night, the small volunteer fire department was called to respond to a chimney fire which quickly turned into a structure fire. Under Chief Frye’s command, the firefighters did what they were trained to do. Mutual aid was called in from surrounding towns while the engines’ tanks were effectively extinguishing the fire as the flames dwindled. Then the hoses went limp; they were out of water.
Fighting alongside Chief Frye were his son, Matt, and friend, Deputy Fire Chief Chris Galipeau. Deputy Chief Galipeau recalls, “Now, our stress levels spike and Steve is commanding, prepping us for the first nearby fire department to arrive with water. As I back our neighboring fire department to our portable folding tank to give us much needed water, I see Steve … holding a section of hose in each arm, head down, feet churning, dirt kicking off his boots as he does the strongman competition to bring more hose sections to the rear of the house. A couple minutes later, I hear someone yelling, ‘Firefighter down!’”
Steve grew up in Chicopee, Massachusetts, and received a bachelor’s degree from American International College. He married his love and best friend, Laurie, in 1985. They had two children, Karlyn and Matthew. In 1992, the Fryes bought land in Montgomery and began building their house. In addition to being a firefighter, Steve was a carpenter, journeyman electrician, EMT, ski patroller, grill master, had his CDL, and much more. He was passionate about learning new things and helping others.
One Christmas, Steve had 45 people coming for dinner. He spent days getting the house decorated and preparing seating for everyone. He was up at 6:00 am making stuffing and putting the turkey in the roaster. Then it started to snow hard. Steve went out to shovel and salt so the guests would be safe. Finally, it was time to eat. As Steve was raising his fork to his mouth, the tone went off. A neighbor had slipped and broken her hip. Chief Frye was off. By the time he came home, the guests were leaving, and Steve had missed the day. He thought nothing of it. This is what he did.
Chief Frye never wanted to be a hero. The community, town, fire department, countless friends, and his large family lost Steve that Tuesday night because he was doing what he always did. Taking care and putting others first—anyone who needed him.