KNOTTS ISLAND, N.C. (WAVY) - The Knotts Island Volunteer Fire Chief died while fighting a fire Sunday night.
Fire Chief Scott Morrison collapsed into respiratory and cardiac arrest while working to suppress a brush fire on the Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Morrison was treated at the scene by Currituck EMS and on the way to a Virginia hospital. He was pronounced dead at 5:30 p.m.
The Knotts Island Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene around 3:18 p.m., along with members of the Currituck County EMS and Currituck County Sheriff's Office.
According to his Facebook page , Morrison became a firefighter in 1984 and worked his way up through the ranks. He leaves behind a wife, Jessica, and two children.
WAVY.com spoke to Morrison's close friend, Andrew Carl. Carl said the community is devastated after losing Morrison.
"I'm sitting here talking to other people about what happened," said Carl. "We're all talking about what our last words to that man were. I can't speak more highly about the dedicated fire chief then to say this is a great loss to myself, to my family, as well as our close friends."
Friends say Morrison's smile showed a sense of real pride. Being a firefighter was more than just a job for Chief Morrison, it defined him.
"He loved what he did. He was fully, whole heartedly, 100 percent firefighter, living out his dream," said Bill Thorn, a longtime friend and former Knotts Island Fire Chief.
Morrison loved taking pictures for the Tidewater Fire Photographers Association. He also worked as a dispatcher for Chesapeake Police. A former firefighter put it this way; "Scott was the guy you always wanted on the other end of the phone. He always had your back."
His death is a tough pill to swallow, for the other firefighters who fought the brush fire on this refuge last night, who were by the chief's side when he went into cardiac arrest.
"Some of the guys were out there and a couple are taking it so very hard, because they were not aware of what was happening," said Thorn. "Something catastrophic happened suddenly and they blame themselves, asking, 'What if I had done more?' It's not possible."
Firefighters placed black drapes over the trucks Monday morning, in preparation for Morrison's funeral. And every so often, they glanced over at Chief Morrison's locker. All of his equipment is right where he left it, as if it's just waiting for him to come back.
"It's still overwhelming," said Thorn. "There's a certain sense it's not real, a sense of loss, an emptiness that theres an empty seat in the pumper."
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. An autopsy is underway to determine what caused Chief Morrison's death.
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