Florida fire chief dies of Covid as three-quarters of department test positive or go into quarantine

By Jade Bremner

A Florida fire chief has lost his fight with Covid-19, as the virus swept through his department, causing a majority of employees to test positive or go into quarantine.

Known as the “firefighter’s firefighter”, Randy Burnham worked for Lake City Fire Department for more than 30 years and headed up the department for more than two years. Mr Burnham passed away on Sunday after battling the virus for almost a month, and being put on a ventilator.

“It is with my deepest sympathy and probably the hardest thing that I have ever posted. Today Chief Randy Burnham lost his fight with Covid. We are saddened but thankful for all of your prayers. Please continue to lift the family and our department in your prayers,” wrote a representative from the Lake City Fire Department on Facebook.

“Chief Burnham’s impact on this department and Lake City as a community is unmeasurable,” said the fire department in an official statement. “He will be missed dearly.”

“He thought that the fire department and being a first responder was the most important job in America,” interim city manager Ami Fields told News4Jax.

Mr Burnham was a husband and a father, prayers flooded social media from the community for his family.

“I am praying for all of you worked with Randy as well as his sweet family. God bless you all,” said one person on Facebook.

“Our whole town is heartbroken. Sending love and prayers,” said another. First responders turned out en mass to line the streets and be part of a procession of lights in his honour to “bring him home”.

At one time in August around 75 per cent of the 21-man fire station were “either positive with the virus or in quarantine,” said driver-engineer Austin Thomas.

PPE was common practice at the station, according to staff, but it is so far unclear as to whether Mr Burnham had been vaccinated against Covid-19.

According to the New York Times, only 33 per cent of those in Columbia County, where lake Lake City is, have been had the shot for the virus.

Around 100 firefighters have died of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic in the US.

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