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Family of Massachusetts firefighter gets mortgage paid off after job-related death

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Cheryl and Emma Burkinshaw — the wife and daughter of fallen Newburyport Firefighter Brett Burkinshaw — cut a ribbon in front of their home after the nonprofit Tunnel to Towers Foundation paid off the family’s mortgage. The Tunnel to Towers Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting first responders, veterans and their families in communities across the U.S. (Photo Courtesy Newburyport Fire Department)

Chief Christopher LeClaire is pleased to report that the Tunnel to Towers Foundation — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting first responders, veterans and their families — has paid in full the mortgage on the home of fallen Newburyport Firefighter Brett Burkinshaw.

Firefighter Burkinshaw, who served his community for nearly two decades, passed away on July 1, 2021, after a 19-month battle with job-related brain cancer.

Firefighter Burkinshaw dedicated his life to serving his community. His firefighting career began at 16 years old, when he became a Call Firefighter for the West Newbury Fire Department.

During and after his college years, he was employed at the Essex County Sheriff’s Department.

He became a Call Firefighter for the Newburyport Fire Department in 2003, and a full-time Firefighter in 2010. He was also a Reserve Officer for the Newburyport Police Department, as well as the Fire Alarm Superintendent in Newburyport.

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Staten Island, N.Y., that supports first responders, veterans, and their families across the U.S. The organization has paid the mortgages of nearly 450 homes of fallen service members and first responders.

In a small ceremony at the Burkinshaw home, attended by Newburyport Fire Department, Newburyport Police Department, friends of Firefighter Burkinshaw and family, Tunnel to Towers officials announced the final mortgage payment and ensured the family’s stability and security.

Firefighter Burkinshaw is survived by his wife, Cheryl Burkinshaw, and daughter Emma Burkinshaw.

“Home is where the heart is, and where we have so many happy memories with Brett. Knowing that my daughter and I will have the security of our forever home being mortgage-free is impossible to put into words,” said Cheryl Burkinshaw. “Brett’s passion for life was to help others and that is reflected in the true meaning of this Foundation.”

“Firefighter Burkinshaw and his family are eternally in our thoughts here at the Newburyport Fire Department,” said Chief LeClaire. “We are grateful for the compassion and dedication of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, and for their work to support families who have sacrificed so much for all of us.”

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