Family and friends remember Scott County firefighter who died over weekend

Family and friends remember Scott County firefighter who died over weekend

SCOTT COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – A part-time Scott County firefighter passed away over the weekend after fighting a wildfire.

Firefighter James Ward of the Virginia Department of Forestry reportedly collapsed while working with a crew on a fire on Garland Drive near Gate City Saturday. He was taken to the hospital, where he later died.

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His wife, Karen Hartsock Ward, knows firsthand how important a dedicated firefighter is. She was only 14 when she was badly burned in a house fire. She said her experience is one of the things that led to her bond with her husband.

Karen Ward said she wants James to be remembered for his bravery and big heart.

“What a great person he was and how much he loved that job,” she said. “He would go in a fire if he thought someone was in there burning. Even though he didn’t know them, he’d still do it.”

When Ward collapsed, he was responding to a fire that was burning dangerously close to a home.

Just before responding to the fire Saturday, Ward was playing basketball with one of his sons, Hagen. He had just returned days earlier from being gone for more than a week fighting a fire in Page County, Virginia.

While he may have been a part-time firefighter, Karen Ward described her husband’s passion for firefighting as full-time.

“People don’t realize what those guys go through out there to fight those fires and protect your homes, what a job they do have,” she said.

Western Region Fire Program Specialist Russell Proctor worked with Ward for more than 20 years and said his commitment and dedication to the job won’t soon be forgotten and that his death has left fellow firefighters in disbelief. He said he wonders how Ward will be replaced.

“Our lives are in each other’s hands at times,” Proctor said. “It forms a bond that’s unique to our community. Now, we’ve got a hole. What’s it going to be like with that hole?”

Because Ward was a firefighter for so long and worked with a couple of different departments, several firefighters are expected to pay their respects to him at his final call. His funeral is set for 11 a.m. on Saturday at Gate City Funeral Home.

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