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Fire chief dies while attending service for a firefighter who lost his life

Gary Sacco served as Oxford fire chief for two years.

OXFORD, Maine — A Maine fire chief has died while attending the public memorial service for a firefighter who died in a four-alarm blaze earlier this month.

A statement from Oxford Fire & Rescue said Chief Gary Sacco, 63, suffered an “unknown medical problem” Sunday and was rushed to Maine Medical Center in Portland.

The service was for Berwick Fire Capt. Joel Barnes, 32, who died on March 1. Barnes was battling an apartment fire, according to WMTW.

Sacco had been the chief in Oxford for two years.

“Chief Sacco was a consummate professional,” his department said. “Not only did he love the job, he had a passion for the fire service like no other. Chief Sacco was a respected leader, mentor, and positive role model. Chief Sacco was well liked by all members of the department and the community.”

Gov. Janet Mills tweeted Sunday: “Our hearts, already broken by the loss of Captain Joel Barnes, also mourn the loss of Oxford Fire Chief Gary Sacco.”

“In a testament to his own character, Chief Sacco lost his life while honoring that of his fallen brother,” she said in a tweet. “I join with people across Maine in offering my thoughts and prayers to Chief Sacco’s family and friends, the Oxford Fire Department, and all of Maine’s first responders.

“The state of Maine has given two of its best to the Heavens.”

She said in a tweet last week that Barnes died trying to save a fellow firefighter.

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