Pa. Fire Lt. Collapses and Dies at Fire School

Keith Rankin was a big man.

A real "teddy bear of a guy" who constantly did for others.

For his fellow firefighters, that's the tough part.

"He would do absolutely anything for anyone, and in the end, when it was our turn to do something for him, we couldn't," Glenn Usdin said. "We were helpless."

Rankin, a lieutenant with Lancaster Township Fire Department, died Sunday after collapsing during a training exercise in West Lampeter Township.

Several of the 25 county firefighters on hand for the exercise performed CPR and other life-saving techniques, but Rankin, 38, never regained consciousness, Usdin said. He was pronounced dead at Lancaster General Hospital.

An autopsy will be performed today. Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni said Sunday night that Rankin's death appeared to be from natural causes.

Usdin, Lancaster Township's deputy chief, said Rankin had been running the "live burn" drill at the Lancaster County Fire School along Village Road. He was talking with some firefighters when he collapsed around 10:30 a.m., according to Usdin.

"There was no sense that anything was wrong," Usdin said. "He literally collapsed without a word of warning."

Rankin, a 23-year volunteer with Lancaster Township, worked full-time as a constable. He is survived by his wife, Abby, and two stepdaughters.

Usdin called Rankin a "fine man and close friend" and said firefighters from around the county were mourning his death.

"Keith had been in fire service for so long, he had so many friends and was so well-respected - he was a very strong part of the local fire community," Usdin said.

"You often hear about the brotherhood of firemen - this is one of those times you really feel it."

Usdin said almost 100 firefighters from neighboring companies visited the Lancaster Township station Sunday to pay their respects and offer support.

"As firefighters, you're constantly taking care of others; it's what you do," Usdin said. "In times like this, we find ourselves having to take care of each other. It's a real blow when you lose one of your own. A real blow."

Fire companies from across the county are assisting Lancaster Township Fire Department, which will remain out of service until 6 p.m. today.

Funeral arrangements had not been finalized Sunday night. Because Rankin died in the line of duty, he will be buried with full firefighter honors, according to Usdin.