Metro

Volunteer R.I. firefighter dies while battling chimney blaze

A 72-year-old veteran volunteer firefighter died after battling flames in a house fire Wednesday morning in Pascoag, R.I., a village about 20 miles northwest of Providence, officials said.

The blaze started at 2044 Hill Road in the chimney at 8:15 a.m., quickly expanding into the walls and floor, fire Deputy Chief Keith Carter said. Forty-five minutes into the fire, Lieutenant Richard Jenks collapsed outside and was taken to Landmark Medical Center, where he died later that day, Carter said.

“He would help everybody no matter what,” Carter said. “And he died doing what he loved to do, right to the end. The department sends prayers to the family.”

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Jenks, a “family man” with children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, worked for the Fire Department, which is made up of both volunteer and paid employees, for over 40 years, Carter said.

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There isn’t an official cause of death yet, Carter said, but it seemed to be overexertion.

The family of three — a mother, a father, and a son in the military — that lived at the Hill Road residence escaped the fire uninjured. The house suffered minimal damage, and the family is expected to move back in Wednesday night, Carter said.

Officials are investigating the cause of the fire.

Elise Takahama can be reached at elise.takahama@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @elisetakahama.