Lehigh Valley emergency services community mourns passing of John Kalynych
- John Kalynych, 50, died Sunday
- He was Lehigh County's former director of emergency management and was well known in Lehigh Valley emergency services
- Gov. Josh Shapiro ordered state flags to fly at half-staff in his honor
BETHLEHEM, Pa. — John Kalynych, Lehigh County's former director of emergency management and a teacher in Pennsylvania's emergency services sector, died Sunday at age 50.
Kalynych served as a firefighter for several Lehigh Valley departments and most recently was safety officer for Lower Saucon Fire Rescue.
In a social media post, Gov. Josh Shapiro ordered state flags to fly at half-staff in Kalynych's honor. Shapiro said he died in the line of duty but did not elaborate.
John Kalynych, a firefighter with Lower Saucon Fire Rescue in Bethlehem, passed away in the line of duty while serving Pennsylvanians yesterday. ⁰ ⁰I've ordered our flags to fly at half-staff in Northampton County in his honor.⁰ ⁰Lori and I are sending our prayers to his…— Governor Josh Shapiro (@GovernorShapiro) August 28, 2023
Lehigh County Coroner Dan Buglio said an autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday, and he would not speculate on details of Kalynych's death before then.
Buglio and Kalynych were close friends of more than 15 years. They first met through Kalynch's landscaping company, M&J Outdoor Services, and then their jobs started to intersect in the emergency services, Buglio said.
"He was a respected leader, and always professional — never temperamental, and his knowledge is what led the way. I mean, when he led, people followed, and people knew: if John was there, that things were going to be under control."Dan Buglio, Lehigh County Coroner and friend of John Kalynch
During that time, he said, it quickly became clear how gifted Kalynych was at handling extreme situations.
"He was a respected leader, and always professional — never temperamental," Buglio said Monday. "And his knowledge is what led the way. I mean, when he led, people followed, and people knew if John was there, that things were going to be under control."
Kalynch's level-headed approach to handling tough situations, along with his expertise, benefitted him in the fire and emergency services. Tributes poured in on social media throughout the Lehigh Valley.
He entered his vocation in the 1980s, as an emergency medical technician (EMT) and firefighter, according to a Facebook post from Lower Saucon Fire Rescue.
Then, he rose to leadership roles within Hanover and Bethlehem townships' volunteer fire companies, and kept rising beyond those agencies. He went on to serve as director of emergency management in Lehigh County and coordinator/chief of Lehigh County Special Operations.
He was retired deputy chief of the Catasauqua Fire Department and worked part-time with the Lehigh County District Attorney's Office and its Municipal Emergency Response Team, according to Lehigh County Emergency Management.
He also belonged to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Urban Search and Rescue Team.
According to Lower Saucon Fire Rescue, Kalynych had a passion for disseminating knowledge about the nuances of his industry. On his personal Facebook page, he once posted an image that declared "You can't train too much for a job that can kill you."
Among his survivors are two sons, whom friends said are now firefighters following in their dad's footsteps.
Buglio and others on social media said Kalynych was close with his boys and their thoughts were with his family.
"I want to wish, not just the emergency services and everybody that [John] came in contact with, but especially his family, his two boys," Buglio said.
"That, to me, is the most important thing. I lost my father at around the same age they are, so I know what it's like to grow up, at that adult stage in your life, 19, 20, or 22 years old, and not have that best friendship. I just want to offer my thoughts and prayers and condolences to the entire family."
Speaking through Lower Saucon Fire Rescue, Kalynych's family has asked for privacy during this time.