Stewartstown firefighter remembered as a role model
A Stewartstown firefighter is being remembered as a role model and an upstanding community member after he was killed as a result of an accident while in the line of duty.
Harrisburg Police confirmed that Fire Lt. Dennis DeVoe was involved in an auto accident at 8:17 p.m. Friday at the intersection of North 14th and Walnut streets in Harrisburg.
DeVoe was on his way to a house fire on Lexington Street that killed a young girl and severely injured two others. The fire was caused in part by a hoverboard that caught fire, according to The Associated Press.
Before responding to the house fire, DeVoe had been on his way back from a memorial service for a Harrisburg fire colleague who recently died of cancer.
DeVoe was taken to Penn State Hershey Medical Center and died at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday, according to Harrisburg Police Sgt. Kenneth Young.
Officials identified 18-year old Khanyae Kendall as the driver of the vehicle that struck DeVoe. Kendall ran a stop sign when she struck DeVoe’s vehicle and fled the scene after the accident, according to police. She later went to Harrisburg Hospital to receive treatment and spoke to police, where they allege she provided false information and had signs of “impairment.”
Kendall is charged with multiple offenses, including aggravated assault by motor vehicle, receiving stolen property, DUI, stop sign violation, careless driving, false information and driving without a license. Young said more charges may be added in light of DeVoe's death.
Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered all commonwealth flags at the Capitol Complex and at state facilities in York and Dauphin counties to be flown at half-staff to honor DeVoe until his funeral, the governor's office announced in a news release Sunday.
Reaction: Members of the firefighting community across the region reacted to the loss.
Eureka Volunteer Fire Co.Chief Ira Walker Jr. said he knew DeVoe for more than 20 years. He said he experienced a “numb feeling and a real sense of shock” upon hearing of DeVoe’s accident and subsequent death.
DeVoe spent four of those 20 years Walker knew him with the Eureka Fire Co. in Shrewsbury. Walker said DeVoe was promoted to sergeant during his tenure and served as a role model to many going through the ranks at the firehouse.
“He was very respected and had a lot of knowledge,” Walker said.
Outside of the department, Walker said, DeVoe was devoted to his loved ones at home.
"He truly loved his family," he said. "It was always first and foremost."
Frank Krick, chief of the Whiteford Volunteer Fire Co. in Whiteford, Maryland, knew DeVoe as a volunteer firefighter for 19 years. Krick said his team was shocked by the sudden loss.
"He was ... very likable and a very great mentor to people in our department,” Krick said.
Because of a foot injury, Krick was unable to travel to Hershey Medical Center on Saturday. He said he sent his acting chief, Dan Lemmon, along with Walker and Fawn Grove Fire Chief Doug Shanberger to visit DeVoe and pay their last respects. He said the feeling within his department is still sinking in.
“We’re all still so shocked,” Krick said.
Walker said the trio of incidents — the firefighter who died from cancer, the young girl lost in the house fire and DeVoe’s accident on his way to help — added to the sense of loss.
“They hear about this fire, which ended up taking a life, and then it takes another one when responding,” Walker recalled, “it’s just awful.”
Public servant: Justin Berk, a meteorologist in Maryland, said DeVoe was a committed and selfless public servant with a discipline that amazed him.
Berk recalled when he was short on assistance for his inaugural Trek Across Maryland charity event after his friend, Gold’s Gym owner Shawn Madden, died just three weeks before its start.
“After going to the funeral, I put a message on the gym Facebook page, and Dennis was the only one that responded. I didn't even know him,” Berk said. DeVoe even offered to use up vacation time to assist through most of the weeklong event.
“He was just so disciplined,” Berk said.
Berk said that at one point, he started having foot issues and DeVoe was the first to help.
“He was literally a guy I just met, and he was doing triage on my feet,” he said.
“He loved his family, and he loved his wife so much,” Berk said, and he found out just how much during the charity trip.
Berk said he saw several cards sticking out from his suitcase, with a different number on each card, and wondered what they were. He later found out they were letters DeVoe was to open every day with new, kind and affirming words written by his wife. Berk said the love between them was “huge.”
Just like the fire officials, Berk said he is shocked at learning of DeVoe’s death.
“It’s a tremendous loss and a huge vacancy that cannot be filled,” he said.
On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all flags in York County and Dauphin County commonwealth facilities to be lowered and remain flying at half-staff in honor of Lt. DeVoe. The flags are ordered to remain lowered until his internment.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for DeVoe's family. As of 3 p.m. Monday, $27,600 had been raised, exceeding its goal of $25,000. Anyone wishing to donate can visit www.gofundme.com/lieutenant-dennis-devoe.