Detroit firefighter who died 'loved serving the city'

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit firefighter Kevin Ramsey fought two fires Saturday with Squad 3 on the city's east side, but when he returned to the station after the action, he told colleagues he wasn't feeling well. 

Firefighter Kevin Ramsey.


He said he felt like he needed to throw up and that he was having chest pains, said Dave Fornell, deputy commissioner of the Detroit Fire Department.

Ramsey's group had returned from fighting a fire at an abandoned store on Kay Street, to finish eating the meal that was disturbed by the fire. As they were cleaning up, Ramsey said he didn't feel well. 


Immediately, the 20-year veteran of the department was under care. As colleagues called for medical support, they used oxygen and a defibrillator to assist him. Medics performed CPR all the way to the hospital. 

In the end it wasn't enough. Ramsey, 50, went into cardiac arrest and died. 

Ramsey was an EMS medic before becoming a firefighter, Fornell said. He loved the action. 

Firefighter Kevin Ramsey

"He wanted to ride a busy company," Fornell said of Ramsey. “A lot of folks say, ‘well, I’ll go to a company that’s not as busy’ when they get older, but that wasn’t Kevin. He liked the activity."

Saturday was an "extremely busy day," with temperatures in the 80s, said Fornell. "That added to the stress. It's a tremendous amount of stress," Fornell said. 

His colleagues were trying to take comfort in knowing Ramsey loved his job, said Fornell. 

"He loved serving the city," he said. "You hate to say he died doing what he loved most, but that is the case." 

Ramsey, known as "Rammer" to some colleagues, was beloved within the Detroit Fire Department, said union president Mike Nevin.

Kevin Ramsey.

"He never had a bad day," he said.

The same cannot be said for the 800 or so colleagues, and the 16 other members of Squad 3 Ramsey leaves behind.

"Everybody's hurt," Nevin, 52, said. "He could deal with people. He could work with anybody. Everybody in the department had a bromance with Rammer."

Nevin called the Finney High graduate a "true Detroiter" who enjoyed the rescue work of his squad, demanding though it was. Squads, Nevin explained, carry heavy gear, and conduct difficult operations, such as elevator rescues and car extrications.

"He was always going, non-stop," said Nevin, a fire department captain in addition to his union duties. "He's doing a minimum of five runs per day. Every day he saw some action."

Firefighter Kevin Ramsey.


The stress isn't for everybody, as the department learned about a month ago, when a new hire just walked off the job at noon one day, without even completing the shift.

"From the time you walk in, you've shortened your life by 10 years," Nevin said of the physical and emotional difficulty of being a Detroit fireman. "I haven't seen a deck of cards at a station in 20 years. It's constantly go, go, go."

Ramsey is survived by his wife, Amy, as well as two stepchildren.