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"Big loss": Brooklyn fire chief dies suddenly

Published On: Dec 23 2012 05:34:20 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 24 2012 12:03:15 AM CST
BROOKLYN, Wis. -

Longtime Brooklyn Fire Chief Phil Mortensen passed away suddenly Saturday.

Mortensen, 67, had served as the village’s fire chief for nearly four decades. Neighboring fire department colleague Randall Pickering, fire chief in Fitchburg, said the cause of Mortensen’s death has not been officially declared, but responders believe he had a heart attack.

Mortensen was found Saturday outside of his auto shop in what was suspected as cardiac arrest. Brooklyn EMS and fire crews responded, beginning CPR and transport to the hospital. Med flight was also called due to poor road conditions from an earlier blizzard, but despite the life-saving efforts of many, Pickering said Mortensen did not make it.

Pickering, who also serves as president to the Wisconsin Fire Service Administrative Association, said although Mortensen didn’t die on a call, his death is considered a line-of-duty death since he died within 24 hours of responding to an emergency call.

Pickering said Mortensen had close relationships with many of the fire and EMS teams in Brooklyn, having served the area as chief for more than 38 years and as a firefighter for 42 years.

In fact, Pickering said the fire chief’s wife, Sandy, his daughter-in-law, and one of his two sons were all involved with area public safety, and it was Mortensens’ own family and colleagues who came to his aid.

"His firefighters and his EMTs had to respond to the emergency, and in this case the emergency was him," Pickering said.

Pickering said he had known Mortensen for about 33 years.

"He was just the epitome of an absolute class act," Pickering said. "Beyond the village of Brooklyn, he touched many people throughout the years as an individual and a fire chief. You just wish there were 100 more like him in the world."

Dave Bloom heads up the nearby Oregon and Town of Madison fire departments.

Bloom says that he knew Mortensen from mutual aid calls, chaotic circumstances perhaps under which to meet, but Mortensen's dedication on those calls made a lasting impression.

"He led the department by example," said Bloom. "He would be part of the ambulance crew. He didn't stand back and supervise, he was part of the ambulance crew."

Those who knew Mortensen say the chief poured his life into the fire department, even moving his auto business into the former fire building, even leaving the numbers on the garage bays.

"Going to be a big loss to Brooklyn and Dane County," said Bloom.

Even though Brooklyn isn't a large metropolis, Bloom says good public servants are just as important in small towns as in large cities.

"The fires burn just as hot in a small town as they do in a big town," said Bloom.

Mortensen was a lifetime resident of Brooklyn and owned Mortensen Auto in the village.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Assistant Chief Leif Spilde will serve as the interim chief, Pickering confirmed.

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