Nobody can say what made volunteer firefighter Sean DeMuynck respond to one last call with the Penn Wynne-Overbrook Hills Fire Company on Sunday night, just before he and his wife were set to move back to their homeland of Canada on Monday morning.
“Honestly, it’s what we do,” said company Fire Chief Ted Schmid.
DeMuynck, 35, never made it back to Canada, or back to his wife. Shortly after 11 p.m. Sunday he became trapped while fighting a house fire in Wynnewood. Crews rescued DeMuynck, but he was later pronounced dead at Lankenau Medical Center.
Their voices cracked and they fought to hold back tears as Schmid and Chas McGarvey, chief fire officer and fire marshal for Lower Merion Township, spoke at a news conference outside of the Penn Wynne Fire Company headquarters Monday afternoon.
“We lost a true hero last night,” McGarvey said. “We as firefighters know the danger we face, but somehow you never think one of your guys is going to pay the ultimate sacrifice, so we are struggling.”
According to McGarvey, Penn Wynne-Overbrook Hills Fire Company responded to a house fire on Rosedale Road in Wynnewood at 10:34 p.m. Sunday and found heavy smoke and fire at the scene.
DeMuynck was among a crew of firefighters who went to the third floor in an attempt to extinguish the flames.
“The atmosphere changed quickly on us, a lot of heat, a lot of fire,” McGarvey said. “We’re not quite sure yet what occurred with firefighter DeMuynck. He was with two other firefighters at the time; they got out. Unfortunately, he didn’t.”
At 11:02 p.m. a mayday call was received, and crews went inside the house to rescue DeMuynck, who was found unresponsive on the third floor. He was taken by ambulance to Lankenau Medical Center at 11:30 p.m. and was pronounced dead there at 12:22 a.m.
The cause of DeMuynck’s death is not yet known, but an autopsy is being performed.
McGarvey declined to comment on what caused the fire, including whether fireworks that may have been set off on the street could have a played a role in the blaze. The case remains under investigation by the Lower Merion Fire Marshal’s Office, the Lower Merion Police Department, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, the state police’s Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which typically investigates line of duty deaths, McGarvey said.
Schmid said DeMuynck was an avid hockey player in Canada and worked with his brother in Toronto before accompanying his wife, Melissa, to the area while she was here on a work visa. He began serving with the Penn Wynne-Overbrook Hills Fire Company in August 2019 and earned numerous certifications in firefighting and technical rescues.
“He came to support his wife, found us, and fell in love with firefighting,” Schmid said.
DeMuynck was “your classic all-around good guy” who was at the firehouse almost every day and put his handyman skills to work there, Schmid said.
“He fit in anywhere. He helped with anything,” Schmid said. “His dedication was second to none.”
DeMuynck even planned to pursue firefighting when he returned home to Canada, Schmid said.