CLAYTON, N.C. (WTVD) -- The town of Clayton hosted a day of remembrance for Deputy Fire Chief Jason Dean, who died from COVID-19 complications last week.
Clayton officials say the town's fire department "essentially planned the biggest parade in town history" to remember their fallen colleague on Monday. The parade featured a 13-mile procession of fire and emergency vehicles. More than 500 firefighters and first responders from across the state attended, bringing hundreds of fire trucks and emergency vehicles.
The town's fire team sounded a ceremonial old fire siren Friday morning in honor of Dean, who battled COVID-19 for more than a month.
"It has been horrible," said Stacy Rose, who said she works with Jason's wife. "And we really thought that everything was going to be fine and it's not. So we're here to support her and be there for her after this is all over."
The parade started at McLaurin Funeral Home and proceeded down US Business 70 to Powhatan Road to NC 42 East to Main Street and then went to Clayton Fire Station One, where Dean worked out of. Following the processional, Dean's casket was carried inside the bay of Fire Station One, where the public was able to pay their respects.
"The Clayton Fire Department and the Dean family can't say enough about how much they have appreciated the community's support and prayers in the past few weeks," a statement from the town read. Donations can be made to the Clayton Firefighters Association (PO Box 155, Clayton, NC 27528).
Dean was 42 years old and a 20-year-veteran of the department. Friends said Dean '"helped re-imagine training" and had a big role in bringing a rescue operation to Clayton. A private burial service will be held for family, friends and local first responders.
In August, the town reported that 17 of its firefighters tested positive for COVID-19, several of whom were hospitalized.