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Lehigh County loses longtime fire service veteran

Volunteer fire service responders in southern Lehigh County lost a highly experienced, trusted and respected friend when longtime Lower Macungie Fire Marshal Brent McNabb, 59, was stricken at home and died Dec. 31, 2019.

McNabb had been a Lower Macungie Fire Department first responder for 43 years, serving as firefighter, lieutenant, assistant chief, deputy chief and most recently as township fire marshal.

Lower Macungie Fire Department Chief Dave Nosal said the department’s firefighters were “deeply saddened” by McNabb’s unexpected death.

“Brent was a dedicated professional. He had an exceptional skill set in all aspects of firefighting to include advanced levels of knowledge in local water supply, new and existing building construction and fire investigation,” Nosal said. “He was the go-to guy for reviewing new building plans as they relate to fire safety and water flow needs, and he also did fire inspections for us.

“He always wanted to be involved in the design and construction of all the new and replacement Lower Macungie Fire Department apparatus. I found him to be just as eager and enthusiastic to help people in his 43rd year of service as he was decades ago. He was a major responder for the Lower Macungie Fire Department, which made him a key component of the Wescosville station’s ability to respond to fire calls,” Nosal said.

McNabb was the owner of McNabb’s Automotive Service and Repair, a short distance from the Wescosville fire station and he was always one of the first at the station when pagers sounded.

Nosal said, “The McNabb family has been a staple in the local fire service for many, many decades. Between Brent, his father Allen, his son Gabe, son-in-law Joe Thompson and brother-in-law Jim Doherty, the family has well over 140 years of fire service between them. As a result, countless people in our area have been helped by the McNabb family.”

Western Salisbury Volunteer Fire Company’s fire district is immediately adjacent to the Lower Macungie Fire Department district and the two fire departments often provide backup mutual aid to one another. Western Salisbury Chief Joshua Wells said, “I was very saddened when I heard of Brent’s death. I’ve known him for my entire 22-year career in the fire service. I felt he always treated everyone with respect, and it didn’t matter whether you were a newbie or been in the fire service for years. I was on many fires and rescues with him, and you always felt good if you heard him on the radio or saw him on a fire truck. He’s one of the guys whose knowledge can’t be replaced, and he has been someone we’ve all tried to learn from.”

Emmaus Fire Chief John Price also had high praise for McNabb. “Although I only knew Fire Marshal Brent McNabb through our shared professional relationship with the Lehigh And Northampton County Fire Investigator Training Association, I came to respect him as a conscientious and able fire investigator. Brent’s son, Gabe McNabb serves as my assistant chief. I am sure all of Gabe’s passionate commitment to the fire service came from his father. That is the greatest sign of a mentor and true leadership.”

Nosal paid McNabb the ultimate fire service tribute when he said “It has been my honor to know and work with Brent for over 30 years. The void he leaves at the Lower Macungie Fire Department will remain forever.”

PRESS PHOTO BY JIM MARSHA Lower Macungie Fire Department engine bearing the coffin of longtime Lower Macungie firefighter Brent McNabb passes through an honor arch at the fire company's Wescosville Station Jan. 6. Firefighters from Western Salisbury and Emmaus, who had raised aerial ladders to form the arch and suspended a large American flag, salute the procession as it moves past the fire