PEABODY (CBS/AP) — Hundreds of mourners paid their final respects Friday to a Peabody firefighter who died in the line of duty last week.

View: Images From The Funeral

Forty-two-year-old James Rice was killed while fighting a three-alarm blaze last Friday at a multi-unit home.

Firefighters from across the region lined the streets for the procession of Rice’s casket on Peabody Fire Engine 5 to St. John the Baptist Church.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports

The church was used for the service because the family’s church, St. Vasilios Greek Orthodox Church, is undergoing renovations.

Rice’s helmet was carried in the procession by Peabody Fire Captain Jay Dowling, a 17-year veteran of the department and a life-long friend.

jim rice Hundreds Pay Final Respects At Peabody Firefighter Funeral

Peabody firefighter James Rice.

“He was unselfish, kind, courageous, humble, and loyal,” Dowling said during the service.  He called Rice a “loving husband, father, son and brother” whose “smile and laughter were contagious.”

A priest gave teddy bears to Rice’s wife and three children to remind them of their father and the tributes to him from fellow firefighters.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Kim Tunnicliffe reports

In keeping with tradition, Peabody Deputy Chief Joseph Daly rang a bell at the end of the service to signal Rice’s final call.

Afterwards, his casket was opened in Greek Orthodox tradition to anoint the body before burial.

Hundreds of firefighters, police officers and well-wishers attended a wake for Rice on Thursday, including the family of Worcester firefighter Jon Davies who was killed on duty about three weeks ago.

Several Worcester firefighters also attended the funeral Friday.

The exact cause of Rice’s death remains under investigation but officials believe he may have breathed in toxic fumes.

The fire was ruled accidental.

Rice was an 11-year veteran of the department.

WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson reports

WBZ-TV’s Sera Congi reports

WBZ-TV’s Alana Gomez reports

Two memorial funds have been set up:

Local 925 c/o James Rice
PO Box 4313
Peabody, MA 01960

James Rice Memorial Fund
Northshore Bank
32 Main Street
Peabody, MA 01960

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  1. Italo says:

    It was a beautiful service, and everyone who participated in it should be proud for the way they conducted themselves and eulogized firefighter Rice in it — in particular, his best friend and workmate as well as Mr. Rice’s dad. I was thankful that we viewers were allowed to share in the normally more private, solemn event. This man was brave and good, and performed his firefighting and human tasks so admirably. He, his family, and all their loved ones are in our thoughts during this time, too.

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