Flags across the state are flying at half-staff in honor of a fallen Cowskin firefighter.
Willie Brinza died on the scene of a fire last weekend, while behind the wheel of his fire truck.
Bonnie Brinza has spent the last few days trying to explain the death of her husband to her young grandchildren.
“’Remember when grandpa went by the house and honked his firetruck horn and he went up to the fire?’ They said, ‘yes.’ And I said, ‘Well, he went up to Heaven,’” Bonnie said.
Her husband has been a Cowskin volunteer firefighter for the past 9 years.
On Saturday, he was called to help fight a fire near the family’s home.
Bonnie says she went out to her front yard with several of her grandkids and neighbors as he sped down the street to the fire.
“He turned down our road and he laid on that horn and all the kids screamed and waved,” she said. “He went right up the street three houses away and died behind the steering wheel.”
Doctors aren’t sure if Willie died from a heart attack or a blood clot.
“I think it’s a very sweet way to go – helping people, that is what he loved,” his daughter Kristin Brinza said.
As much as he loved being a firefighter and helping others, his love for his family ran even deeper.
“He was my father. I didn’t have anybody else. He was there for me,” said granddaughter Taylor Freeman. “He taught me how to fish, he taught me how to tell time, he taught me everything.”
His girls say Willie was an adrenaline junkie and practical joker, who loved the outdoors and loved being a firefighter.
“Just a big ole grin on his face. It was pure joy being in that firetruck, wearing the uniform,” said daughter Valerie Lopez.
His boots and jacket sit in his locker. The hat and shoes he wore to work the morning he died sit at a table in his fire station. Reminders of Willie Brinza’s last ride.
“My dad’s not here anymore, but there are a lot of people that are because of him,” said Kristin.
The memorial service is Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Cowskin Fire Department.
Firefighters say they are expecting hundreds to come together and honor the life of a true hero.