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Officials identify Watertown firefighter hospitalized following training exercise

Updated: Mar. 5, 2021 at 10:56 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Officials have identified the Watertown firefighter who’s hospitalized after suffering a medical emergency during a training exercise.

He is 21 year old Peyton Morse, a firefighter employed by the city as well, as a volunteer with the LaFargeville Fire Department. Officials said Friday he’s in critical, but stable condition in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Pennsylvania.

Watertown Fire Chief Matthew Timerman “a great firefighter.”

“The department is real pleased to have him as a new recruit,” he added. “We look forward to a speedy recovery.”

Morse was participating in an 11-week training course at the State Academy of Fire Science Training in Montour Falls, near Watkins Glen.

The medical emergency occurred during a “physical skills drill,” according to a press release from the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

Watertown City Manager Ken Mix said the drill involved the use of breathing apparatus.

In a note to union members Thursday afternoon, the New York State Professional Firefighters Association called what happened “a life-threatening and disturbing series of events that occurred during a recruit training session.”

The union also said, “During a session involving some of our newest members, one became unresponsive and at this moment is receiving advanced medical care, after being airlifted from a local hospital to the Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital, a Grade II Trauma Center located in Sayre, Pennsylvania.”

“There are serious concerns about circumstances and reactions surrounding these events. We have not yet had the opportunity to speak to the members of the class witnessing the session,” according to the statement. “In addition, we are demanding a comprehensive report and will pose questions to the officials who oversee the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control regarding these events and the actions of the personnel supervising the training.”

State police are investigating the incident.

Chief Timerman said the Watertown Fire Department cooperating with the state police investigation. He also echoes the New York State Professional Firefighters Association’s the sentiments of having “serious concerns” about what happened to Morse and that it needs to be investigated.

The Watertown trainees were two of 39 firefighters who began training in early February, according to a press release from Governor Cuomo’s office dated February 12.

The press release describes the training as an “11 week rigorous training program” with participation from firefighters from 16 departments.

“During the 11 week program, recruits participate in more than 500 hours of training in both classroom and practical settings,” the release states. “Classes focus on areas such as emergency vehicle and pump operations, flammable gas firefighting, basic rescue technician skills and foundational firefighting training and operations. Recruits also participate in daily physical fitness training.”

To his peers, Peyton Morse has always been determined to be a firefighter.

“You ask him to do something, he’s right on it. If he knows he has to do something, he’s out of the truck. Once we get on scene, he’s packed up, ready to go,” said LaFargeville Fire Chief Wade Ingalls.

In 2017, we met Peyton for the first time at LaFargeville High School, where he was learning about law enforcement and first responders.

Now, he’s doing it himself. Not only does Morse work for the Watertown Fire Department, but he’s the assistant chief at the LaFargeville Volunteer Fire Department.

As assistant chief, he helps coordinate members during a fire and keeps his eye out for safety hazards.

Chief Ingalls says his absence has left a void in the department.

“He’ll put through and we’ll be glad to see him back. We hope he gets back soon,” he said.

And many others echo that wish. There has been an outpouring on social media from fire and emergency service departments.

“It doesn’t really make a difference which badge you have or which patch you have on your shirt. Everybody in public safety is all just one big family and they really care about each other,” said Jefferson County Director of Fire and Emergency Management Joe Plummer.

A post from Thousand Island Emergency Rescue Service is asking for thoughts and prayers.

Another post from a fire department in Sodus, New York was shared 36 times, calling him a young man who has a passion for fire service.

“This situation could have happened here in Watertown, New York, in Watertown, Massachusetts, or in California. It doesn’t make much of a difference. Everyone gets concerned about these kinds of things,” said Plummer.

And now everyone is hoping, Morse will recover and get back to fighting fires. The thing he’s always been determined to do.

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