Rostraver Central Fire Department mourning death of firefighter

ROSTRAVER, Pa. — This week is a tough one for the Rostraver Central Fire Department after losing longtime member John “Billy” Bunardzya.

Bunardzya, 73, was a 20-year member of the Rostraver Central Fire Department. Brian Sokol, the department president, said Bunardzya responded to State Road and Tyrol Boulevard Saturday afternoon to remove a downed tree.

He passed away in his sleep that night.

“It’s a tough pill for the membership to swallow right now,” Sokol said.

Before joining this department, he was a firefighter at Belle Vernon Volunteer Fire Company and was a life member of the North Belle Vernon Fire Station 80.

Protecting his community was his passion.

“Billy was always fire first, family second,” Sokol said. “This was his life. If Bill was at home, or if Bill’s local, Bill’s going to the fire call.”

Sokol called Bunardzya a “treasure trove” of information and experience, mentoring many of the younger firefighters in the department.

“The young guys, we’ve all talked, and it’s just like, ‘man, what’s it going to be like after a fire call when Bill doesn’t come back to the station and kind of tell us what his thoughts were on how the fire was that particular day?’” Sokol said.

Bunardzya’s death is considered a line-of-duty death since it happened within 24 hours of responding to a call.

“He was the heart and soul of this department that brought a lot to the table,” Sokol said. “At 73 years old, still actively responding to fire calls, unbelievable. That man had the passion to continue to serve his community, we’re going to miss him.”

Visitation will be held Wednesday from 4-8 p.m. at Ferguson Funeral Home and Crematory.

Rostraver Central firefighters will hold a service at 7 p.m.

The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday.

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