Volunteer Firefighter Ronald T. Kreamer, 34, died of a heart attack Aug. 13 after battling a blaze at a senior citizens apartment building in Wheatfield, Niagara County Coroner Steven Gerhardt said Wednesday.
According to toxicology and pathology reports, Kreamer had arteriosclerotic heart disease, which Gerhardt described as a buildup of plaque in his arteries. That could have been caused by any number of factors, from poor diet to genetics, he said.
Kreamer, whose brother, James, died of diabetes in 1992, was taking medication for high blood pressure, but he had passed his last annual physical in November, said Gary Hunt of the Frontier Volunteer Fire Company, where Kreamer was a firefighter for 16 years. At that time, he also passed the "fit test," permitting him to go inside burning buildings with the required breathing apparatus, Hunt said.
Kreamer was stung by a bee at the fire scene, but that was ruled out as a cause of death, Gerhardt said. Smoke inhalation and other fire-related causes were also ruled out, he said.
The firefighter collapsed after saving three elderly residents from the burning building at 2132 Sawyer Drive near Summit Park Mall.
The multiple-alarm fire, sparked by a lightning bolt from a storm, had been contained, and all the residents had been evacuated.
Kreamer was cleaning up on the third floor when "he just turned around and collapsed," according to fellow Firefighter Richard Overholt.
Paramedics performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and he was taken by ambulance to Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston, where he was pronounced dead.
Kreamer, who lived with his wife, Annette, on Colvin Boulevard in Niagara Falls, was five days from his 35th birthday. He had taken that week off from his job at an industrial equipment manufacturing company to look after his wife, who was recovering from surgery, and to celebrate his birthday.
Firefighting was in Kreamer's blood. His grandfather, Leonard, was a firefighter with Frontier, and his father, Leonard Jr., of 77th Street, joined the department in 1960 and is still an active member. Leonard Kreamer Jr. was directing traffic at the scene of the fire that claimed his son's life.
An estimated 1,200 people, including firefighters from across Western New York and Southern Ontario, paid tribute at Kreamer's funeral Aug. 18.