The Plymouth Volunteer Fire Department's chief died in a fire at his home early Monday morning, according to a statement released Monday.
Frank Fowlston, 60, died at his home on 108 County Road 21 after a fire started in the living room. Responders were notified of the fire from 911 phone call at 2 a.m.
An autopsy at Lourdes Hospital determined smoke inhalation as the cause of death.
Fowlston was the only person in the residence at the time of the fire. Volunteer firefighters from Plymouth were the first responders, and the Chenango County Sheriff's office responded to a call from them.
Fire departments from Plymouth, Norwich, North Norwich, Smyrna, and Sherburne provided mutual aid at the scene to extinguish the fire. An investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing.
"The single hardest-working man I ever met in my life," Frank Fowlston Jr., his eldest son, said of the late fire chief.
The younger Frank said his father worked 70 to 100 hours a week without complaint. He served as a firefighter for 12 years and was maintenance manager at Deb El Food Products, formerly Egg Low Farms, where he built and maintained equipment for the company for over 20 years, his son said.
The Plymouth Volunteer Fire Department said he was elected chief in December 2016.
"He has his own family, but the department was his second family. They are taking it hard," Fowlston Jr. said.
Fowlston took great pride in the department and especially in the fire truck, his son said, spending hours maintaining it and keeping it spotless for parades.
On Facebook, condolences from neighboring fire departments and community members poured into the department's page. The department said it plans to release a statement in the coming days.
Fowlston Jr. said his father had been dealing with health complications and two weeks ago had a pacemaker put in. He had started to sleep better and be more active, talking about improvements he was going to make on his house, his son recalled.
He recalled his father as dedicated and generous.
"All through growing up, and later when we were on our own, he was there for us," the son said Tuesday, "If we ever got into a tight spot, even if he didn't have anything, he would give up his last dollar to make sure we didn't struggle."
Whitney Bashaw, staff writer, can be reached at (607) 441-7218 or firstname.lastname@example.org