Portland Fire Dept. mourns captain who 'made a difference'

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PORTLAND — Fire Department Capt. Michael Kucsma died of a heart attack while scuba diving Monday afternoon, according to preliminary findings by the Office of the State Medical Examiner in Augusta.

The results were announced Wednesday after an autopsy on the 21-year veteran of the department.

“This report is bittersweet, allowing his family and co-workers additional peace of mind, yet, there is still the task of saying goodbye to a son, a husband, a brother and a friend,” Portland Fire Chief Jerome LaMoria said in a press release Wednesday.

Wednesday night, Portland Fire Department spokesman Tim Nangle said visiting hours for Kucsma will be from 4-8 p.m. Friday at Jones, Rich & Hutchins Funeral Home, 199 Woodford St.

Funeral services with a uniformed presence will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 196 Cumberland Ave. A reception at the Italian Heritage Center, 40, Westland Ave., will immediately follow the service.

On Tuesday, a visibly shaken LaMoria, speaking at a press conference at the memorial to fallen firefighters outside department headquarters at 380 Congress St., said Kucsma, 43, was diving with a group of six friends Monday at 3:45 p.m. near Tukey’s Bridge when he did not surface.

“I know not hearing his voice on the radio will be tough,” Lt. John Brooks said. Brooks and Kucsma worked the same shift at the city’s Bramhall Station at 784 Congress St.

Kucsma had been pulled out of the water, to a dock at Maine Yacht Services on Kensington Street, when Fire Department emergency personnel arrived. Brooks said his colleague was declared dead at the scene.

“Rescues of this nature are never easy,” LaMoria said. “But when it’s a co-worker it is that much harder on everyone involved.”

New details released Wednesday by LaMoria revealed Kucsma had responded to an emergency call earlier in the day in Gorham, where he was a deputy chief in the Gorham Fire Department. 

LaMoria said the autopsy results led both fire departments and union officials to make preliminary reports that classify Kucsma’s death as in the line of duty.

“The public safety officer’s line of duty death benefit provides certain benefits to survivors if the firefighter or other public safety official death meets certain specific criteria,” Nangle said.

Kucsma, a married Buxton resident, was described as an avid diver by Brooks. The men also served together on the department Air Rescue Team stationed at 1005 Westbrook St. He was promoted to captain in 2006, and served on Engine 6. 

Brooks, who is also president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 740, said Kucsma was dependable and dedicated.

“He always did things in a safe way. He was passionate about everything he did,” Brooks said. “These are going to be some tough shoes to fill.”

“He knew his job and he came to work everyday and made a difference,” Brooks continued. “He was someone you went to for answers.”

Kucsma’s family has requested donations in his memory be made to Portland Firefighters Children’s Burn Foundation, 380 Congress St. Portland ME 04101.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.