Decatur Township chief reflects on legacy of Lt. Hayden—the first firefighter to die in the line of duty

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DECATUR TOWNSHIP, Ind. — Decatur Township firefighters experienced loss this weekend like never before. Chief Pascal Arnes said longtime firefighter Lt. Tracy Hayden died from complications related to his battle with leukemia. He is the first firefighter in Decatur Township to lose his life in the line of duty.

Arnes said it’s believed Lt. Hayden’s cancer resulted from an October 2015 fire at an old storage barn on the city’s southwest side.

“It was a hazardous materials incident that spanned over a course of a couple months,” Arnes said. “The initial run was a fire that they responded to was an abandoned garage, and afterwards, once the fire was put out, was when we learned of some of the chemicals that were inside.”

Lt. Hayden was diagnosed with leukemia in April. He leaves behind a wife and two young boys. He is also missed immensely by the department he worked at for 17 years and four months.

“Lt. Hayden was not only a great employee and firefighter, but a very close friend to many, if not all of our people,” Arnes said.

Arnes said the thought of something like this happening is something firefighters often think about.

“That’s why it’s important that everyday we as a department take measures to help prevent those things but that our firefighters do the same and maintain situational awareness,” Arnes said.

But firefighters are public servants and Arnes said that means putting others ahead of yourself.

“Every day they put their lives on the line, unselfishly, for people in the community that they don’t even know,” Arnes said.

A service has been scheduled for November 15 at 11 a.m. at Decatur Central High School.

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