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Fla. FF dies after fighting years-long COVID infection

Marion County Fire Rescue Engineer Charles Westphal tested positive for COVID-19 in 2021

By Irene Wright
The Charlotte Observer

MARION COUNTY, Fla. — A Florida firefighter has died after battling a severe COVID-19 infection for more than two years, his department said.

Charles “Chuck” Westphal, 53, was a driver engineer with Marion County Fire Rescue until his death on Feb. 4 , the department said in a Feb. 5 Facebook post.

“Chuck’s courage, dedication, and indomitable spirit have left an everlasting mark on our department, and he will be deeply missed,” the department said.

He tested positive for COVID-19 in 2021, according to the fire rescue. Westphal was a 12-year veteran of the department, according to the Associated Press .

The infection quickly became serious, a spokesperson for the department told WOFL, and Westphal spent 133 days on a ventilator in the ICU.

Westphal’s wife, Lara Westphal, wrote on Facebook in February 2022 that her husband was exposed to COVID-19 during his work as a firefighter and paramedic.

Lara Westphal said her husband spent seven months in and out of the hospital before he was able to continue recovery at home.

“Chuck’s journey was one of unwavering resilience,” the department said. “In August 2021, he faced a daunting battle against COVID-19, a battle that he fought with immense strength and determination, a battle that continued until (Feb. 4).”

The department said Westphal had regained some of his strength, “embodying the firefighter’s spirit,” and getting back into the weight room.

This his health took a devastating turn.

“He leaves behind a legacy of camaraderie, bravery and commitment to our community. Chuck was more than a colleague; he was family,” the department said. “Let us remember Chuck for his infectious laughter, his unwavering dedication to our mission, and the countless lives he touched throughout his career. As we mourn his passing, let us also celebrate the life he lived and the impact he made on all of us.”

Westphal leaves behind his wife and daughters, according to Lara Westphal’s Facebook post.

Marion County Fire Rescue is based in Ocala , about 100 miles north of Tampa .

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