John Urevich, firefighter and strategist in combating wildfires, dies

John M. Urevich, a firefighter who was instrumental

John M. Urevich, a firefighter who was instrumental in developing strategies for preventing a recurrence of the devastating 1995 Sunrise wildfire, has died. He was 48.

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John M. Urevich, a firefighter who helped develop strategies for preventing a recurrence of the devastating 1995 Sunrise wildfire, has died. He was 48.

Urevich, of Riverhead, advocated for new equipment and firefighter training as chairman of the Central Pine Barrens Wildfire Task Force, which formed after 5,000 acres of forest burned for two weeks on Sunrise Highway in Westhampton.

He died April 11 at Stony Brook University Medical Center from complications of a stroke. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Flanders Men's Club, 1018 Flanders Rd., Flanders.

Urevich's work with the wildfire task force led to the establishment of a weather station in the Pine Barrens to monitor conditions that could cause wildfires, and the acquisition of brush trucks, smaller trucks designed to fight forest fires, by local departments, said John Pavacic, executive director of the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission.

"He was really a visionary," Pavacic said. "He really bridged the gap between structural firefighting . . . and wildfire prevention and suppression."

Urevich grew up in West Babylon before his family moved to Flanders. He graduated from Riverhead High School.

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He joined the Flanders Fire Department as a volunteer when he was 18 and later was hired by the Riverhead Fire Department as a dispatcher. He subsequently served as a Flanders fire chief and senior dispatcher at the Hampton Bays Fire Department.

"He loved the volunteer fire service," his wife, Cathy, said. "He loved being part of it and just trying to help the community."

He enjoyed building model rockets and attending air shows, and he was a World War II buff. "He loved music of the '40s," Cathy Urevich said. "I think he was born in the wrong time."

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In addition to his wife, Urevich is survived by his parents, John and Arline Urevich; a sister, Laura Minsk, her husband David Minsk, and three nephews.

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