Farmington community mourns the loss of firefighter
By Ted Glanzer
His mother made him go.
Looking for something for her son, David Barr, to do, Chris Rzewnicki signed up the then-14-year-old Barr for the Farmington fire cadet program after seeing a sign outside the Tunxis Hose Company No. 1 station in Unionville.
Barr, reluctant at first, got several of his buddies, including close friend Logan Rickis, to go with him to the meetings.
It turned out he and his friends loved it. The work. The camaraderie. The sense of purpose it gave them.
“The joke was all the other kids didn’t want to do it,” Brian Hunter, Tunxis Hose’s house captain and past chief, said.
Barr and his friends eventually passed through the cadet program and they all became firefighters, with Barr rising to the rank of second lieutenant of rescue in addition to his day job as an HVAC technician and a propane technician.
“He loved the program so much,” Rickis, who is also a lieutenant at Tunxis Hose, said.
Rickis said it took him some convincing to go to those first cadet meetings a decade ago.
“I was like him; I didn’t want to get out of comfort zone,” Rickis said. “[Barr] saw that in me, and convinced in me to go. I really picked up same thing as him.”
In addition to earning his Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 certificates, Barr also became an EMT.
All of that came to a jarring and tragic end when Barr died crashing his Harley Davidson motorcycle in Litchfield, according to state police. He was 24 years old.
Barr, according to police, was traveling on Thomaston Road in Litchfield when he lost control of his motorcycle and collided with two traffic signs and then a wall on the side of a pet feed store. The crash remains under investigation.
News of his death sent shockwaves through not only the Farmington firefighter community, but numerous other area organizations to which even his closest friends didn’t know Barr belonged.
Barr, according to Rickis, was a big-hearted and kind social catalyst – someone who could bring disparate groups of people together, and who could be relied on above all others in a pinch.
“He was the guy who was always there and would do anything to bring people together,” Rickis said. “So many people have become friends through him. He was the one person who could make you laugh or always be there.
“I can’t tell you how many times saved me when I needed help working the house or my car. It didn’t matter what time I needed him, he’d get there somehow.”
Barr was Rickis’ first friend in Farmington when Rickis moved to town when he was 10 years old.
“He was the one who would say, ‘Sit with me on the bus, let’s hang out after school,’” Rickis said. “My mom considers him second son. We grew up a lot together. We looked at colleges together.”
Hunter said Barr would be one of the first people to volunteer to help someone move or use his HVAC expertise to help a homeowner, charging them only for parts but not the labor.
“He was genuinely a good kid,” Hunter said, adding Barr fit in naturally with the culture at Tunxis Hose, which, yes, entails serving as firefighters above all else.
Hunter, however, added, that Tunxis engenders a family atmosphere where the 40-plus members frequently get together and socialize as well. Young men and women in their 20s easily mix with firefighters decades their senior, Hunter said.
Barr was “an old soul,” Hunter said.
At a time when, at least until before the pandemic, young people were fleeing Connecticut, Barr purchased a house in Burlington, just over the Farmington line, Hunter said.
“You don’t see many kids that age laying down roots, and certainly not in this area,” Hunter said.
“He had friends everywhere, including social clubs in New Britain. He had all these pockets of friends we never even knew about. It wasn’t just Dave from Tunxis Hose. He belonged to motorcycle clubs; he was everywhere. At 24, he was joining social clubs. He was Boomer stuck in a millennial’s body.”
Perhaps the only thing he loved as much as his friends and being a firefighter was riding motorcycles.
“He’s loved bikes since little kid, and he always liked Harleys,” Hunter said. “He was an up and comer. He was young but ambitious; he had a lot of accomplishments ahead of him. It’s too bad.”
David Barr graduated from E.C. Goodwin Technical School in New Britain in 2014. He became a full-time firefighter in 2015 and was named Rookie of the Year in 2016, according to his obituary.
He also became an EMT in 2016 and earned several awards for his service. He was elected rescue lieutenant in 2018, according to his obituary.
His obituary says he is survived by his sister Stephanie Rose Barr, parents Frank Barr and Chris Rzewnicki, grandparents Robert and Madelyn Rzewnicki, David Barr, aunt and uncles Jessica Barr, Jennifer and Dennis Stapell, Jeff and Betty Rzewnicki, cousins Matt and Tim Stapell, Tony, Angela, and Cela Rzewnicki.