CLAYTON, N.C. (WTVD) -- A 42-year-old Clayton firefighter has died from COVID-19.
The sad update comes nearly a month after Clayton Fire Department had 17 firefighters test positive for COVID-19.
Clayton Fire Department said Jason Dean was a beloved 20-year veteran of the firefighting family.
He graduated from Clayton High School and served three years in the US Army before becoming a first responder--first as a paramedic, then a firefighter.
Mayor Pro Tem Jason Thompson went to school with Dean. They were on the same rescue squad and they even roomed together.
"It can't be measured, the contribution that he's made to our town. And I think the only thing that could come close are the lives that are saved by the firefighters, the rescues that are made, the fires that are extinguished. He had a direct impact in training every one of these folks," Thompson said.
"He was a fire training geek...an over-qualified instructor who was always seeking the next certification, always looking to add a new technical fire/rescue discipline or specialty course," a statement approved by Dean's family said.
Dean taught fire training courses around the state and had a deep passion not for the adrenaline of firefighting but the necessity of keeping others safe.
The approved statement went on, "He didn't long for the adrenaline rush of an emergency, he loved the constant preparation for the worst case. One of his favorite sayings was 'The garbage man doesn't get excited when he turns the corner and sees trash, and you shouldn't get excited when you turn the corner and see fire. You should expect fire on every run.'"
Dean is survived by his wife and two daughters, ages 13 and 7.
"We ask that everyone respect their privacy at this time of mourning. They would not like any visitors at this time, nor should flowers or other items be brought to the family or the fire stations," the department said in a statement.
However, donations are still being taken by the Clayton Firefighters Association. Those donations can be made in honor of Dean and will be given to his family and the other Clayton firefighters and spouses who are still battling COVID-19.
Funeral and memorial arrangements for Dean are still being finalized and will be released when finished. To help the Clayton Fire Department community, check here.