Pa. firefighter dies from COVID-19 complications
Reading Firefighter Mark Kulp died within 24 hours of being hospitalized and shortly after showing symptoms, colleagues say
Duty Death: Mark "Dewey" E. Kulp - [Reading, Pennsylvania]
End of Service: 01/05/2021
Reading Eagle, Pa.
READING, Pa. — Engine 7 arrived at Penn Square at 9:42 a.m. Thursday behind a Reading Fire Department ambulance carrying the body of one of the department's most senior members, Mark Kulp.
Turning onto Penn Street from North Fifth Street, the procession entered the lot of Theo C. Auman Inc. funeral home in the 200 block of Penn about a minute later, passing under an American flag draped from the arch formed by ladder trucks from the West Reading and Mount Penn fire departments.
Honor guard details from the Reading Police Department and the city fire department saluted until the ambulance stopped near the entrance of the funeral home, where fire department members carried their colleague inside.
It was the culmination of what fire department members called an extremely difficult week: first, learning Kulp, 52, was ill with COVID-19 symptoms, then learning he was hospitalized and, within 24 hours, had passed away Tuesday.
"I know a lot of guys are still in shock," said Jason Batz, training lieutenant. "The department did so well with COVID when it first hit. We managed to kind of go through it unscathed, just a couple of quarantines. Out of the first six months, only one guy got sick."
The recent surge in COVID cases has wreaked havoc on the department.
At one point during the most recent holiday season, 27 department members were in quarantine, though not all had COVID symptoms.
Batz's comments came moments before he was to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Penn State Health St. Joseph hospital. First responders and health care workers are at the front of the line for those receiving the vaccine.
"This week was the first week we're getting the vaccine," he said. "What if this (Kulp becoming infected with COVID-19) would have happened two weeks later?"
The procession left the Penn State Health St. Joseph campus along Route 183 in Bern Township shortly after 9.
Outside the funeral home, Kulp's firefighting partner, Joe DeCisco, shared hugs with fellow firefighters.
"As you can see by the amount of people who are out here and the amount of people at the hospital — to see the entire ER department in tears — just what an influence he made on people," DeCisco said. "I'd say he made people better, and he made me better."
DeCisco and Kulp worked together on B Platoon the last two years, DeCisco as driver and Kulp as his crewman. The department is divided into four platoons.
They were in the class of recruits hired Feb. 1, 1993. Only three department members have more seniority.
"Mark was just loved by everybody, and the entire department looked up to him," he said. "He was the humblest guy who could ever meet, and I can't imagine what he's thinking and what he will be thinking just of the outpouring of love from all these guys."
Kulp's wife, Wanda, took her husband's seat in Engine 7 on the trek from the hospital to the funeral home. Kulp's three siblings also rode along, with DeCisco driving.
"It was probably the most honorable ride of my life and the most saddest, and the longest," DeCisco said.
(c)2021 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.)