‘Heavy hearts’: Willow firefighter dies while preparing to respond to fire

Willow Fire Department firefighter Roger Delongchamp, 66, died of natural causes while he was getting ready to respond to a fire, according to a statement from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Delongchamp had been in a fire truck when he lost consciousness. He was given CPR for an hour before the firefighter was pronounced dead around 3:00 a.m. Saturday morning, according to a written release by Alaska State Troopers.

“It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to our brother today. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and fellow responders,” said Mat-Su Director of Emergency Services Ken Barkley in the release. “We ask to respect the privacy of the family during this most difficult time.”

Rich Boothby, Alaska’s state fire marshal director, wrote in a statement that Delongchamp had worked a full shift previously.

"He still got out of bed before two in the morning to go help others in need,” Boothby said in the release. “You have good people doing good things for their community. When someone with such dedication dies when rushing to help others, it leaves a huge void. He will be missed for years to come.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy released a statement on Saturday afternoon that said he and first lady Rose Dunleavy were mourning Delongchamp’s passing. He also ordered that state flags remain at half-staff the day of Delongchamp’s memorial service.

"We hope all Alaskans will join us in praying for his family, friends, and fellow first responders during this difficult time,” Gov. Dunleavy wrote in the statement. “It’s the brave work of firefighters, paramedics, and law enforcement like Roger Delongchamp that keep our state safe. On behalf of all Alaskans I want to thank Roger for his service to our great state.”

Delongchamp’s next of kin was notified and his remains were released to Legacy Funeral Home of Wasilla.