Update 2 p.m. at bottom with statement from Felko’s girlfriend

Ithaca, N.Y. — A man found dead in a ditch in Ithaca earlier this week had been a firefighter in a Central New York county.

Peter Felko, 20, worked as a volunteer firefighter with the Morrisville Fire Department for a school year while a student at Morrisville State College, according to Fire Chief Michael Bischoff.

“It takes a special person to be a firefighter — you have to run into burning buildings when everyone else is running out, and he had absolutely no problem doing that,” Bischoff said of Felko.

Bischoff said the fire department had been devastated by Felko’s sudden death.

Felko, of Cortland, was found submerged in about about a foot of water on Tuesday, according to the Ithaca Police Department.

Ithaca police responded to an access road that leads from Elmira Road to Fairgrounds Memorial Parkway around 8:42 a.m.

There’s no indication of foul play in the death, Police Chief John Barber said.

“The autopsy and toxicology examination have yet to be completed,” a statement said. “Police investigators do not believe that foul play is involved.

A Facebook page, “RIP Felko,” has been set up to honor the man’s life and gather photos and recollections.

“I can’t even believe this, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life & I wouldn’t change it for the world,” one person wrote. “…I’m gunna miss you big guy Fly High.”

Bischoff, the fire chief, said Felko fought in multiple fires. Like several people on the Facebook page, Bischoff spoke of Felko’s good nature and good sense of humor.

“Great attitude. Just a joy to be around,” Bischoff said.

“He had a great sense of humor, and it’s a terrible loss.”

Here is a statement from Felko’s girlfriend, Amanda Johnson:

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.