JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. — The BackStoppers organization is helping the family of a fire lieutenant who died after a shift.
Ron Wehlage, a 40-year-old lieutenant and fire marshal with the DeSoto Rural Fire Protection District, was found dead in his home after a heart attack on June 30. He had recently finished a shift during which he had completed a medical run.
Wehlage had 21 years of firefighting experience. He spent 17 of those years with the DeSoto fire district and four with the Hillsboro Fire Protection District. He also served as an EMT with the North Jefferson County Ambulance District and the Valley Ambulance District.
“Lt. Wehlage was a man dedicated to protecting others,” said Chief Ron Battelle, executive director of The BackStoppers, in a press release. “His death will be felt by many in his department and the DeSoto community."
Flags across the state will be flown at half-staff Wednesday in honor of Wehlage. Missouri Governor Mike Parson ordered all U.S. and Missouri flags be flown at half-staff at all government buildings in Jefferson County. They'll also be lowered at fire houses across the state and at the Fire Fighters Memorial of Missouri in Kingdom City.
"At an early age, Ronald Wehlage chose a career path based on service to others,” Gov. Parson said. “He was committed to protecting others, educating residents and children about the importance of fire safety, and improving the lives of the people he served. Lieutenant Wehlage will be remembered for his devotion to ensuring the people of the DeSoto Rural Fire Protection were safe and secure.”
Gov. Parson said Wehlage's death is considered to be in the line of duty. His funeral will be held Wednesday.
The BackStoppers is a non-profit organization that helps families of first responders who die or suffer catastrophic injuries in the line of duty. Since 1959, it has assisted more than 170 families.