Edward Scardigli, 74, Philadelphia firefighter

Posted: October 25, 2013

EDWARD SCARDIGLI had a passion for helping people, and he got plenty of chances as a Philadelphia firefighter.

For most of his 26-year career, he was assigned to Engine 16 in West Philadelphia, one of the city's busiest companies.

He managed to emerge unscathed from two of Philadelphia's most horrendous fires more than three decades ago, the Gulf Refinery in 1975, in which eight firefighters were killed, and the ARCO refinery fire in which then-Mayor Frank Rizzo was injured.

At the Gulf fire, he saw his fire engine melt in the intense heat.

But a firefighter's mission is not always so dramatic. There are the fires that don't make headlines, and the rescues of adults and children from dire situations that add to a fireman's satisfaction at doing an important job without public recognition.

Edward Scardigli died yesterday of complications from several strokes. He was 74 and was living in Orangeville, Columbia County, Pa., to which he moved after leaving the Fire Department on Feb. 16, 1995.

He was also a Marine Corps veteran.

A devoted outdoorsman, Edward relished living in the quiet of a town with a population of only a few hundred in the Pocono Mountains, where he could indulge his love of hiking and fishing the freshwater streams, like Fishing Creek near his home.

"He taught himself fly fishing, but he was a catch-and-release fisherman," said his wife, Patricia Gray. "He loved to be outdoors."

That was the reason Edward went to work as a park ranger at the Francis Slocum State Park in Luzerne County for a year after moving to the region.

He helped campers find their way, and made sure there was no rowdiness to disrupt their camping experience.

In his younger years, Edward and his wife enjoyed some serious hiking, testing their endurance with jaunts over such vistas as the mountainous trails along the Skyline Drive in Virginia.

Edward was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Northeast Catholic High School in 1957. He served in the Marines from 1958 to 1961. He joined the Fire Department on Jan. 6, 1969.

He married Patricia Gray in July 1981, and they established a large family. There were his three children from a previous marriage; Lisa, Mark and Laura, and Pat's four; Paul Sebzda, Mary Pat Welch, Joseph Sebzda and Beth Ann Wolfe. They generated 16 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

The deadly Gulf Refinery at Girard Point started on Aug. 17, 1975, and went to 11 alarms, bringing in fire apparatus from a large swath of the city. Eight firefighters died before the conflagration could be brought under control. Other pieces of fire apparatus, besides Engine 16's truck, were destroyed and 14 other firefighters were injured.

The ARCO fire went to six alarms, and before it was over, then-Mayor Rizzo fell while running from flames and broke his hip. There were other injuries, but no fatalities.

Edward spent his final years with Engine 46, at Frankford Avenue and Linden Street.

"He was happy and very proud to be a fireman," his wife said. "He was happy being involved in helping people. He was a friendly, gregarious man with a good sense of humor. He had a lot of friends."

Edward was active with his church, Christ the King in Benton, Pa., where he was always available to do whatever the church needed.

"He was our cleanup man," his wife said.

Besides his wife and their children, he is survived by a sister, Grace Collins.

Services: Funeral Mass 11 a.m. tomorrow at Christ the King Church. Friends may call at 9:30 a.m. Burial will be in Benton Cemetery.

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