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Former Oneonta firefighter loses life saving loved ones from blaze

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the Heller boys, whose uncle was killed in a fire over the weekend.

Posted: Dec 31, 2018 11:37 AM
Updated: Dec 31, 2018 1:05 PM

ONEONTA, N.Y. -- A GoFundMe page has been set up for the Heller boys, whose uncle was killed in an Oneonta fire over the weekend.

John Heller went back into the building to get four children, all boys, and his fiancée out, but wasn't able to make it out himself.

The GoFundMe page isn't asking for much – its goal is $500 to provide a trip to Noah’s World for the kids. It's already raised more than $2,500.

The fire started on Walling Avenue in Oneonta on Saturday morning.

A neighbor says the upper floor of the home, which houses a number of apartments was on fire and crews worried it would spread to the next home.

That same neighbor said Heller died in the fire after getting his nephews, who were staying over for a sleepover, out.

They boys' mother, Heller's sister-in-law, says he is a hero. She wrote on the fundraising page:

"What began as a fun sleepover with their uncle John and soon-to-be aunt Amber, turned into a nightmare. He died because he did everything he could to make sure that his fiancée and my sons were out of the home safely. They were completely trapped in the top floor of the building. Once he had them all out on to the fire escape, he was unable to get out."

The Oneonta Professional Firefighters President Andrew Turner released a statement on Heller's death Monday. It read: 

"It is with sadness and deep loss that the Oneonta Professional Firefighters learned of the tragic passing of John Heller, a former part-time member of the Oneonta Fire Department.

We extend our deepest sympathies to the Heller family.

In the pre-dawn hours Saturday, John was a victim at a blaze on Walling Avenue in the City.

During his years as a member of the Department, John’s actions made a difference in the lives of our residents – and his actions on Saturday were central to saving the lives of those closest to him.

We pray for peace to John, and all who he touched and loved."

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