PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — The firefighter who was killed when a power line fell on him was “the example of the Paw Paw Volunteer Fire Department,” his fire chief said.

An undated courtesy photo of Paw Paw Fire Department Lt. Ethan Quillen.
An undated courtesy photo of Paw Paw Fire Department Lt. Ethan Quillen.

The firefighter was identified Thursday morning as 28-year-old Lt. Ethan Quillen. He joined the department in 2019.

“He was a great guy. Father, husband, volunteered his time here for free, gave his life for free,” Fire Chief Jim DeGroff said tearfully. “Just the best.”

Quillen’s crew was called to the 42000 block of 30th Street near 42nd Avenue in Almena Township around 5:45 p.m. Wednesday on a report of a tree that fell onto a power line.

“The original power line was handled. A tree broke further down on the line and brought a more high voltage line down and when it happened, it snaked and there was no way to get away from it,” DeGroff explained. “Nothing that any human did or he did was wrong.”

Michigan State Police were asked to investigate and consider the death accidental.

“On behalf of the state police, we want to offer our condolences to the Paw Paw Fire Department and to Ethan’s family and the entire Paw Paw community for their loss,” MSP Lt. DuWayne Robinson said.

Paw Paw has a volunteer firefighter department, which means none of its crew members are paid.

“We couldn’t afford in this community to have a paid staff, full-time fire department here,” DeGroff said. “The men and women that serve on this fire department, they love their community. We’re so fortunate to have the people we have. They don’t want anything in return. Their satisfaction is helping another family or helping anywhere we can. We don’t pay, we don’t want press, we don’t look for that. Ethan was the example of the Paw Paw Volunteer Fire Department.”

A memorial was set up outside the station to honor the Paw Paw fire lieutenant.

The community turned out to support the fallen firefighter and both his family at home and his family at the firehouse. People brought flowers and condolences to the department Thursday as they shared their grief.

Judy Vesalle dropped off a box of bagels to the firehouse Thursday morning. She didn’t know Quillen personally, but she knows the servant’s heart that beat in Quillen and the other men and woman who occupy the village fire station.

“They’re the greatest group of people ever,” she said. “You hear them, and even out at our place, all of the sudden you’ll see them flying by in their trucks.”

“I’m sure Paw Paw is going to get together and take care of stuff and help out any way we can,” she said.

At GG Sweets, located at 210 East Michigan in downtown Paw Paw, 100% of sales from some special baked goods are supporting the firefighter’s family. The cookies are $5.

“We are stronger together as a community,” Sarah Cox, the owner of GG Sweets, said. “When situations like this happen, we have to come together as a community so that we can survive and help in any way that we can.”

Neighboring fire departments are helping provide service in the Paw Paw area while its firefighters grieve. A GoFundMe account has been created to support Quillen’s family.

“This scar’s not going to ever go away,” DeGroff said.