OXFORD – Gary Sacco, who has served as Oxford’s fire chief since 2017, died Sunday at the funeral of a Berwick firefighter who died in the line of duty March 1.

Sacco suffered a fatal medical event while attending the funeral of Capt. Joel Barnes of the Berwick Fire Department in Portland, according to Oxford fire officials.

The town of Oxford and its Fire and Rescue Department posted a brief statement on their Facebook page late Sunday night that said, “With our deepest sympathies to Chief Sacco’s wife, family and friends. He will be deeply missed.”

Sacco was hired as Oxford’s fire chief in June 2017. Before that, he had served for 12 years as chief of the New Gloucester Fire Department. He had worked with fire and EMS departments since the mid-1970s.

“It was a pleasure to work with him,” said Scott Hunter, who worked with Sacco at Oxford Fire and Rescue. “He was exactly what the town needed at the department when they hired him. He did a great job for the town, and I liked working with him.”

Hunter said when he left the fire station Friday, he told Sacco to “have a good weekend.”

“Then this happens,” Hunter said. “You just never know. He’ll be missed.”

Capt. John Brennan, a spokesman for the Portland Fire Department, said that around 10 a.m. — one hour before the memorial service for Barnes was scheduled to begin — a Portland firetruck and ambulance responded to the area of the Holiday Inn by the Bay on Spring Street for a medical call. A person there was then transported by ambulance to Maine Medical Center, Brennan said.

The Holiday Inn by the Bay is located a few hundred feet away from the Cross Insurance Arena, where the service for Barnes was held.

“The medical call did not happen during the memorial service. It happened outside,” Brennan said. “No one had to be taken out of the funeral.”

Gov. Janet Mills issued a statement Sunday night on the deaths of Barnes and Sacco:

“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, fellow firefighter Captain Barnes.

“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.”

Portland Press Herald reporters Dennis Hoey and J. Craig Anderson contributed to this report.

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