MAPLETON, Minn. (KMSP) - The recent death of a Minnesota firefighter is calling attention to the invisible dangers of the profession. Tim Royce, 58, of the Mapleton Fire Department died of an apparent heart-attack shortly after responding to two emergency calls on March 30.
Less than 24 hours after responding to the two calls and a participating in a training exercise, Royce was found unconscious at the local grocery store where he works. Several of his fellow firefighters responded and realized it was Royce, one of their own, who had suffered a heart attack.
“One of the hardest parts of doing what we do is the eventuality that you will have to help one of your own,” Mapleton Fire Chief Ben Froehlich wrote in a Facebook post. “Tim was the best of the best and he will truly be missed.”
Royce is the second firefighter in the state to die of a heart issue since late December. The Minnesota Fire Service is now working to spread awareness and reverse a disturbing trend, saying more than 12 percent of firefighters develop heart disease in their lives.
The Minnesota Fire Service Foundation put out a call to fire departments around the state to attend Saturday’s visitation and Sunday’s funeral service for Tim Royce. Hundreds of firefighters are expected near Maple River High School by 10 a.m. Sunday for a send-off.
The visitation is from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 7 at Woodland Hills Funeral Home in Mankato and noon to 1 p.m. Sunday, April 8 at Maple River High School in Mapleton. The funeral and memorial service will be from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at Maple River High School.
“Please keep both his family and his fire family in your prayers,” Chief Froehlich wrote in a Facebook post with the funeral arrangements. “Please share this as I wish to show the family what the Brotherhood of the Fire Department is all about.”
NEW RESOURCE FOR FIREFIGHTERS
The Minnesota Fire Initiative is a new effort by a group of Minnesota fire service advocacy organizations which is trying to educate firefighters, their families and the general public about health and mental well being of firefighters.
They want people to know there is a greater risk for firefighters in developing cancer and mental health issues than the general public. A third issue is heart disease-- the number one killer of firefighters.
The group has set up a toll-free hotline for firefighters to call about any of these issues. The number is 1-888-784-6634.
Anyone calling the line will leave a message and a peer advocate will get back to them with help and resources.