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State honors Madison firefighter who died shortly after shift

Courtesy: City of Madison Fire Department
Courtesy: City of Madison Fire Department(NBC15)
Published: Apr. 6, 2018 at 12:13 PM CDT
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City of Madison Firefighter and Paramedic Richard Garner collapsed and died after his shift on Sunday. He would have turned 30 years old on Thursday.

Garner joined the Madison Fire Department in 2012 after graduating from Madison Area Technical College. He served as a firefighter/EMT until he became a paramedic in 2017. He is originally from California but moved to Madison to play football at the University of Wisconsin.

Family, friends, community members and firefighters from across the state celebrated Garner's life on Friday. Governor Walker ordered flags to be at half-staff to honor him.

"It's rare in our business to have this big personality come on, that everybody loves and adores. It has impacted our over 400 members of the Madison Fire Department significantly," President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, Mahlon Mitchell said.

"He absolutely loved this city and loved working for the fire department and loved serving the citizens of Madison," Madison Fire Chief Steve Davis said.

"He loved, every day, being at the fire station. He mentored kids at Station Five where he started and he had kids coming to the station and asking for Rick Garner," Mahlon said.

Under the 2004 “Hometown Hero Act” signed in to law by President George W. Bush, Garner's death is considered to have happened in the line of duty since he likely died of a stress-related health incident less than 24 hours after his last shift.

Garner went in to work on the Friday before he died. He worked for two days in a row and got off of work early Sunday morning. He went to celebrate the Easter holiday with some friends in Mount Pleasant. After lunch with his friends, he collapsed and died.

"He did have some pretty significant calls," Chief Davis said about Garner's final shift. "They had some significant events on those two days."

Chief Davis said Garner responded to around 19 calls in the two days before his death.

"It's not a significant number of calls but the devil in the details are the types of calls and there were high acuity calls. They had a lot of trauma events and I believe a child birth event. You can have one call and, if it's stressful enough, it can do a lot of damage to the body," Chief Davis said.

Chief Davis said they do not know the exact cause of Garner's death because they waiting for the results of a medical exam.

A plaque will hang at Station 10, where Garner worked, to honor him. His funeral will be held in his home state of California.