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Firefighter mourned in Worcester

A firefighter carries the fire helmet of fallen Worcester, Mass., firefighter Jon Davies as part of a procession making its way to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church before a funeral Mass, in Worcester, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011. Davies was killed during a Dec. 8, 2011 fire after he and his partner went back into a burning building because they thought a tenant might still be inside. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Steven Senne/Associated press

The helmet of fallen Worcester firefighter Jon Davies was carried as part of a funeral procession that made its way to the church yesterday.

WORCESTER - As their careers intertwined, Brian Carroll learned that fellow firefighter Jon D. Davies had a “heart of gold.’’

“For a guy who only stood about 5 foot 9, Jon was a very big man,’’ he said.

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Carroll delivered a teary-eyed eulogy yesterday for his Rescue 1 partner who died in a fiery building collapse on Dec. 8.

“A big appetite for food and for life,’’ Carroll described Davies to firefighters and other mourners squeezed into Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church as his voice wavered. “He had big broad shoulders that could handle any load life put on them, but when I think about Jon, I think about his heart. Jon Davies had a big heart, all the clichés are true, heart of gold.’’

Davies’s brown casket rested about 30 feet from where Carroll stood as he often looked down. The two men had gone through training together and partnered in numerous rescues. And in the early morning of Dec. 8, Carroll, 40, and Davies, 43, dashed into 49 Arlington St. to rescue an occupant, who, it was discovered later, was not there.

The sudden collapse of the back portion of the three-decker killed Davies but Carroll, who fell into the basement, sustained only minor injuries and was hospitalized overnight.

Carroll said yesterday that he blamed himself “for everything’’ but that haunting feeling was assuaged by Davies’s brother, who visited Carroll in the hospital.

“You spoke to me in the same manner that Jon would have and told me Jon wouldn’t want me feeling that way,’’ Carroll said, directing his remark to Rob Davies.

Yesterday, firefighters from throughout New England and beyond turned out to mourn Davies. They lined the street leading to the church and filled adjacent streets. They stood stone-faced at attention as a bitter wind ruffled their uniforms and Davies’s coffin, atop the Rescue 1 firetruck, passed.

“He was Jon Davies, and his life, his purpose, his character, his final heroic act will live on in the memories of people long after Dec. 8,’’ Rob Davies said of his brother.

Jon Davies was the father of three sons, one of whom returned from Afghanistan for the funeral. Davies was to be married on New Year’s Eve.

Senators John F. Kerry and Scott Brown attended the funeral Mass, as did Governor Deval Patrick and numerous other elected officials. Firefighters bearing company patches from New York, Maine, and other states gathered with local firefighters to mourn and to share experiences. When room ran out in the church, hundreds of firefighters crowded into bars and restaurants on nearby Shrewsbury Street to watch the funeral on television, which was broadcast in its entirety.

Firefighters from other cities manned the city’s 10 fire stations so Worcester firefighters could attend the funeral.

“I was here 12 years ago, so it’s kind of like a revisit,’’ said John Schultz, a captain with the Framingham Fire Department, who covered a shift of one for Davies’s co-workers at the Franklin Street Station.

The Framingham department, along with other cities and towns, provided assistance during the 1999 Worcester Cold Storage fire that claimed the lives of six Worcester firefighters. The 12th anniversary of that tragedy had passed only days before Davies was killed.

“We helped to cover then, and coming back now, it kind of hits you,’’ Schultz said. “It’s an honor to cover the station firefighter Davies was out of.’’

The funeral lasted almost two hours, during which time substitute firefighters responded to about a half-dozen calls.

Following the service, a motorcycle-led procession of emergency vehicles and cars wound through the city to the St. John’s Cemetery, where Davies was buried.

Fire investigators have not yet determined the cause of the fire. The occupant mistakenly thought to be trapped inside the multifamily house, prompting Davies and Carroll to rush inside, was arrested Tuesday on unrelated warrants and interviewed about the blaze, according to authorities.

Ronald Robbins, 21, who had been living at 49 Arlington St., was arraigned Wednesday in Worcester Central District Court on charges that he violated his probation, which stemmed from convictions for assault and battery and violating a restraining order, prosecutors said. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.

Robbins was ordered held on $5,000 bail and is due back in court Jan. 12, according to the office of Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.

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