LEWISTON – Firefighters from across Western New York will be on hand Saturday for the funeral of Thomas J. Burley, 20, the Youngstown firefighter who died in a motorcycle crash on North Ridge Road in Cambria Tuesday night.
Participating companies are being asked to bring one apparatus and line up along Center Street in Lewiston beginning at 7 a.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. in St. Peter’s Catholic Church, 620 Center St. Firefighters will line up as a tribute to Burley’s family members, as they leave the services. Members of the Youngstown Volunteer Fire Company will escort the family from the funeral.
To participate in the service, fire departments are urged to contact the Niagara County Fire Coordinator’s Office at (716) 438-3171.
Meanwhile, the flag outside the Youngstown department station has been at half-staff, with black and white bunting draped over entrances.
Youngstown Fire Chief Erie Wieland said Burley’s death in service was a first for the company. Greg Robertson, the company’s information officer, noted Burley died while returning home from a firefighting training session at the Public Safety Building in Lockport.
“It was devastating. It feels very empty right now,” said Wieland, in the fire hall.
The chief said the tribute is one way all firefighters can demonstrate camaraderie and show respect for the family.
Burley died near the intersection of North Ridge and Church roads about 9 p.m., when his motorcycle collided with a minivan. Niagara County sheriff’s investigators believe Burley crossed the center line into the path of the minivan.
Burley was a five-year member of the department and previously was a member of Firefighting Explorer Post 911. Burley also had been a member and mentor for the Lewiston Police Department’s Explorer Post and worked as a security police officer with the New York National Guard’s 107th Air Wing in Niagara Falls.
“It’s going to be a long process for us,” Robertson said. “When we heard about it, it really affected us all. It’s hard to say how much you will miss someone until he’s gone. We keep thinking Tom will show up on the next call and he’s going to be here, and when he doesn’t come in, it really goes to your heart. This is kind of the first step – our brother firemen coming together – but it’s going to be a long process.”
“For a young man who is only 20 years old, he spent a lot of his life serving his community and other people,” added Robertson. “He was like any other 19- to 20-year-old. He liked to have fun, but when it came down to a call, he was very serious and he was devoted to community service. He was always there for you.”
Memorial contributions may be made to the Youngstown Volunteer Fire Company, 625 Third St., PO Box 387, Youngstown, 14174.