Austin firefighter passes away after battling COVID-19

Members of the Austin Fire Department (AFD) are in mourning after one of their brothers lost his battle with COVID-19. FF Rodney "Rod" Kelley passed away on August 29. 

Kelley gave 20 years of his life to the Austin Fire Department. Those who worked with him say he loved his job and his fellow Austin firefighters loved him.

"Heartbroken to share we lost 20-yr AFD member FF Rodney "Rod" Kelley last night after battling #COVID19," the fire department said in a tweet this morning. "Please keep his family, friends, and crew in your thoughts and prayers, and we ask for your respect and kindness as we grieve the loss of our brother."

"I know Rodney Kelley by reputation. He's a solid firefighter that means something in the fire service. He's a very beloved firefighter who has many friends and is known by his reputation as being a very hard worker who loves serving the community," said Bob Nicks, president of the Austin Fire Department.

Nicks says Kelley contracted COVID-19 while on the job. He spent 15 long days on a ventilator before he passed away on Sunday. Kelley is the first COVID-19-related death for AFD.

Nicks says the department is heartbroken.

"We call each other brothers and sisters for a reason. That's the way we feel. It's a family and it's a very hard death to come to terms with because everybody signs on to this job and realizes it is dangerous. You could be hurt in a fire during a rescue, but very few of us realize the other types of hidden dangers we have like this virus," he said.

Because Kelley caught the virus on the job, Nicks says this is considered a line of duty death.

"We don't have many of those in Austin. This is really unique for us and I'm glad to say it's unique for us. This is a big deal, so you'll see us roll out the full line of duty death funeral which is quite an honor to the family and also to the memory of Rodney Kelley," he said.

The fire department is taking time to remember Kelley for who he was and the job he did for the city.

"He's always loved coming to work and serving the citizens for 20 years and he certainly deserves our admiration and respect during this time, especially so his family knows that he's loved by the firefighters as well as the community," said Nicks.

Nicks says there is about 30-40 cases of COVID-19 in AFD with one in the hospital.

Last week, the Austin Police Department announced that they had lost two police officers to the coronavirus. Both police officers deaths were considered line of duty deaths.

"I have to take a moment to remind everyone to take all precautions to keep yourself safe and to keep the virus from spreading," Chief Chacon said in a series of tweets. "The COVID-19 variant has proven more dangerous than previous surges, & we have many staff who are infected w/ the virus, & a few hospitalized still fighting."

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