Benefit being held for widow of LI firefighter who died in line of duty

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N.J. Burkett reports a foundation will pay the mortgage for the widow of a Long Island firefighter who died in the line of duty. (WABC)

Fellow firefighters are joining together to help the widow of a volunteer firefighter from Long Island, who died when a floor collapsed during a fierce fire in Woodmere and he fell to the basement.

A benefit is being held to pay off the $300,000 mortgage for the widow of Joseph Sanford, Jr.

"This is where his heart and soul was, in the fire department," said his widow, Jacqueline Scott-Sanford.

Sanford was a volunteer firefighter for nearly 20 years, one of scores of firefighters from surrounding communities who answered the call at 4 a.m. last Dec. 23rd.

His wife Jackie will never forget the moment he jumped out of bed, to be there.

"I said, 'All right Joe you know the drill..keep your head up, be careful. And he said, 'I'll see you when I get home,'" said Ms. Sanford.

But Joe Sanford never returned home. Firefighters say he somehow ended up unconscious in the basement, after tumbling through the first floor, and later died.

The home was unoccupied and no one else was injured.

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation announced Tuesday that the organization would assume the mortgage on the Sanford home, just blocks from the firehouse.

The annual Tunnel to Towers Run is named for Stephen Siller, who was among the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11.

His brother Frank is the foundation's chairman.

"We are going to immediately take over the mortgage payments from Mrs. Sanford starting here today. And we are going to raise enough money to pay off your mortgage so you don't have to worry about that ever again," said Frank Siller.

"This is a family, a brotherhood. They have stood by me from the beginning," said Ms. Sanford.

For Jackie Sanford, the sense of loss is too painful to put into words, but her sense of gratitude is something else.

Her husband was there for the community and now the community is there for him.

The Inwood Fire Department has established a fund to support the Sanford family. Donations may be mailed to: Inwood Fire Department/Joseph Sanford Fund (Checks must be made payable this way). 188 Doughty Blvd., Inwood, NY 11096
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