NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — A firefighter was killed on Thursday in a wreck during bad weather while responding to an emergency call, officials said.
New Bern No. 7 Township Fire & Rescue Assistant Chief Travis Blalock said Ralph DeBlasi was responding to a vehicle crash on US Hwy. 70 at around 1:45 p.m.
He was on his way to the department’s Brices Creek Station to pick up gear when he got into a crash in the 220 block of Brices Creek Road.
Officials quickly found out it was one their firefighters.
Officials said additional units from the department responded to the scene, pulled the firefighter from the vehicle and assisted EMS with patient care. The firefighter was pronounced dead at the scene.
“Anytime we leave our house, leave the station here to answer a call, there’s definitely a risk and our lives can be in danger,” said Blalock. “Unfortunately, (Thursday) Ralph gave the ultimate sacrifice trying to save others.”
Now, Blalock and his team are remembering Deblasi as one of their most active members.
“He was a very unassuming and generally kind of quiet guy,” said Blalock. “But when he spoke, you definitely listened. He was definitely a fixture in the department, so his presence will be missed.”
Blalock said there’s an unofficial tradition in the fire service called “senior man.”
“A senior man is an experienced firefighter, usually an older firefighter who’s well-respected and known for putting others and the fire service before himself,” he said. “Passes on tradition and knowledge and Ralph was definitely a senior man in our department.”
The North Carolina State Highway Patrol is investigating the crash. Members from Township 7 EMS, Bridgeton EMS, The City of New Bern Fire Rescue and West of New Bern Fire Department also responded to the crash.
“This is an extremely difficult time for all involved but as a department, with the support of fellow first responders, we are working diligently to support the fallen firefighter’s family and extend to them our deepest condolences,” Blalock said in a press release issued Thursday night. “Out of respect for their privacy, we will not be releasing any information regarding the firefighter involved in the accident until we have received the family’s permission.”
DeBlasi’s funeral will be held on June 19 at 10 a.m. at Cotten Funeral Home in New Bern.