Emotional farewell to fallen firefighter

Lt. John Martinson was an 18-year veteran
January 7, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
It was an emotional goodbye on Staten Island Tuesday, as family, friends and thousands of firefighters paid their final respects to veteran firefighter John Martinson. Martinson, a husband and father, died battling a fire at an apartment building in Brooklyn last week.

Eyewitness News reporter Jamie Roth has more from Great Kills.

It has been a very difficult day for those who loved and respected this fallen firefighter. The block outside the church was packed with firefighters from across the nation, and, of course, New York.

So many felt a need to say goodbye. Around 8,000 New York firefighters showed up. Some who never heard of Lieutenant John Martinson even paid their respects, as did those who saw him every day.

"John was big part of our firehouse," FDNY Captain Tom Reilly said. "He was great for the younger guys, he set the mark high for the other officers...He was a tenacious firefighter and he didn't like to lose. We're going to miss him dearly."

The 40-year-old Martinson, an 18-year veteran, was the first rescuer to head inside a smoke-filled apartment building at the Ebbets field houses in Crown Heights last Thursday.

Reilly said he was one of the first people that firefighters looked to for advice. Also considered a family man and dedicated firefighter, Martinson earned the nickname "Johnny Nice Guy."

Now, the stories of Johnny Nice Guy are being passed well beyond New York. Captain E.J. Farly traveled with other firefighters all the way from Pittsburgh.

"It's something special with the firemen, and some people don't understand it," he said. "We didn't know each other personally, but we do, because of what we do."

They came to support the FDNY and the Martinson family.

"So when they walk out of that church, they see this long blue line of firefighters from all different places," said Captain Matthew Stuart, of the West Hartford Fire Department.

It's a sight that even got Gussie Farice's attention. She too felt the need to pay her respects.

"It shows that you really care," she said. "How could you not? Look at it. It's like a sea of sorrow."

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta and Mayor Bloomberg delivered eulogies, along with Martinson's brother.