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Top Stories > Accidents & Fires

Off duty fire police captain saves life

Apr 5, 2021

By Joseph Abraham - co-editor

White Lake Fire Police Captain Matt Copeland.
KERHONKSON -- The quick thinking actions of White Lake Fire Police Captain Matt Copeland, 30, helped save the life of an elderly man on Route 209 in Kerhonkson on Thursday morning.
Copeland, a driver at Fallsburg Lumber, was traveling with a coworker on route to various deliveries when they saw traffic backing up right past the New York State Trooper Barracks [Troop F] in Kerhonkson around 10:20 a.m. As they got closer, Copeland could see the smoke, realizing it was a vehicle on fire and that the accident had just happened.
Copeland then rushed to the scene. As he approached the car, flames were coming up the windshield.
The driver, an older gentleman, was still in the vehicle and looking to collect their things.
Knowing time was of the essence, Copeland pulled the man out of the vehicle. Just after doing so, flames burst into the car.
Copeland got the driver to safety and signaled to his coworker to retrieve the fire extuinguisher from their truck. Unfortunately, at that point, it was too late to put out the flames.
Soon after, a state trooper and nearby fire companies showed up, and Copeland returned to his job making deliveries.
Copeland notes that you don't have a lot of time with a vehicle fire.
“If you discover that your vehicle is on fire, stop, shut it off and get out as quickly as you can,” he said. “Things can be replaced. A life cannot.”
Joshua Cunningham, Chief of the White Lake Fire Company, said after being notified that Copeland had rescued a motorist around 10:45 a.m. on Thursday morning, his first reaction was to see if Copeland was ok.
After confirming he was alright, Cunningham realized that as volunteers, they are not just here to provide a service when they are called. They are trained to be ready at anytime.
“Whether it's driving down the road for work and coming across an accident as Matt did and being able to step in and help someone in need, or helping a family member that just had a heart attack while on vacation as what happened to our assistant chief and my brother Brendon last spring, we never know when we are going to be needed,” said Cunningham.
“I'm proud to know that my fellow firefighters are ready to jump in to help someone in need,” Cunningham said. “This is what makes being part of a great organization so rewarding. I am a proud Chief of all our members and what they risk everyday to help anyone in need. Matt did a great thing [on Thursday] and risked his life for a complete stranger in need.”

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