Firefighter Jason Johnson
On Saturday, a 28-year-old volunteer firefighter assisted with a stubborn grass and brush fire in rural Kansas.
When a second blaze broke out about two hours later, his colleagues told him over the radio they could handle it, and encouraged him to continue with his plans to shop for decorations for his son's fifth birthday party.
But, Jason Johnson didn't make it to the store with his wife. The firefighter collapsed in their car, said Butler County Fire District # 3 Capt. Kevin Webster.
"We're all still in shock. We can't believe it," Webster said Monday afternoon. "Jason had helped with the earlier fire, and everything seemed OK. He had made no complaint."
Webster said he and others listened to the radio traffic about the EMS call while they were at the brush fire. "I remember we talked about them having a 'code blue.' Little did we know that it was Jason."
A firefighter who responded to the call recognized his colleague, and notified his chief. Word of Johnson's collapse spread quickly at the brush fire.
Johnson was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital. An autopsy is being conducted to determine the cause of death, Webster said, adding that results should be known in a few days.
"He was very enthusiastic about being a firefighter. He was positive about everything,"Webster recalled. "He had a really good attitude, nothing negative."
In addition to responding to calls, Johnson also helped out with fire safety education. "He enjoyed working with children, and was in a position to be there during the day because he worked the third shift. He was a good, solid firefighter, very dependable."
A funeral with full fire department honors has been planned for the young firefighter. Honor guards from Wichita Fire Department and Cedgwick County Fire District # 1 will participate.
The Rosary will be recited at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Headley Funeral Chapel. A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Mary Catholic Church in Derby.
Johnson's casket will be carried to Rose Hill Cemetery aboard his fire department's rescue squad.
Webster said it's been a tough few days for firefighters as they struggle with emotions.