Firefighters from across state cover for Madison colleagues

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MADISON, Wis. -- Firefighters from across Wisconsin staffed Madison fire stations and ambulances Sunday, so the city's firefighters could attend a memorial service for Todd Mahoney, the firefighter who died after competing in the half-Ironman triathlon last weekend.

The 38-year-old Mahoney was found unresponsive in Lake Monona Sunday during the swimming portion of the 70.3-mile triathlon. He died Tuesday, and was the second man who passed away after competing in the triathlon.

Firefighters from 19 departments covered for Madison firefighters, so they could attend the memorial service at Door Creek Church. The family requested a private service.

“Certainly, we hope that it's quiet several hours that we're here, but we're certainly prepared if something does happen. The City of Madison is well protected, I can tell you that,” said Chief Pete O’Leary of the Fond du Lac Fire Department.

It’s a bond all firefighters understand, lending a hand to their fellow comrades when times are tough.

“Knowing that the firefighters here in Madison are grieving and suffering. And to have a burden of not being able to go because of work, it's tough,” O’Leary tells NBC15 News. “The fire chief here has a lot of confidence in the firefighters across Wisconsin, and I do too. I do the same thing he's doing. He puts the faith in all these men and women coming to help."

It’s something we’ve seen a lot in the past year: departments making their way to Sun Prairie, Lake Mills and most recently Appleton, when it’s time to pay tribute to a fallen firefighter.

“I feel honored to be here. In my position, I do a lot of things with the state, so a lot of these guys I know. So it's nice to see them and this application is something new, and a little bit different,” says Lt. Jake Kirchner of the Appleton Fire Department.

Kirchner was working in Appleton the day firefighter Mitch Lundgaard was killed in the line of duty. After that, he says the only time he felt “normal,” was when he was working.

One month after Lundgaard’s funeral, Kirchner says it’s his chance to give back to Madison, after Madison firefighters did the same for him.

“There's no road map for going through what you're going through. It's just, everybody deals with things their own way. Keep your head up, and realize you'll see your brother again one day, and keep fighting the good fight. Keep doing what you do."

In all, about 60 men and women staffed the Madison fire departments Sunday evening.

The fire departments also included Brookfield, Racine, Kenosha, Fitchburg, La Crosse, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Janesville, Wausau, South Milwaukee, North Shore, Oshkosh and Greenfield. EMS units from Sun Prairie, Middleton, Fitch-Rona and Monona also provided back-up.