Originally published Dec. 18, 2021
UPSULA, Minn. (WCCO) – Hundreds throughout the state collectively mourned the loss of Upsala Fire Captain Brian Lange Saturday morning.
Lange, who had been with the department for 23 years, passed away at age 55 on Dec. 11 from complications due to COVID-19. His death, ruled a line of duty death, marks the first for a firefighter in the state since the pandemic's onset. He left behind a wife and two children.
"Today, all of Minnesota's 20,000 firefighters are grieving his loss and realizing it could have been any one of us any day," said Jay Wood of the Minnesota Fire Service Foundation. "All of us think about that, and that's the risk of the job every day."
Gov. Tim Walz ordered all flags throughout the state be at half-mast.
In addition to Lange's service with the Upsala Fire Department, he served on the city's council board for 10 years and was active at St. Mary's Church, the site of Saturday's funeral mass.
"[He was] very hardworking," said Upsala Fire Chief Jay Baggenstoss. "Very dedicated to his family and his community, and an all-around fun guy to be around. He made the job fun."
Fire departments from throughout the region showed their support by leading a procession to a nearby cemetery.
Those who knew Lange say he was a constant support to those around him.
"I remember specifically one time we were in kind of a rough spot," Baggenstoss said. "He came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder and he said 'I've got your back, Chief.' I'll never forget that. I thought about that a lot today. I've thought that a lot in the last few days. I'll never forget that as long as I live. It was just a quick thing, but that was Brian."
"Don't take life for granted," Baggenstoss said. "Life is short, and we're only here once. So hug your loved ones and tell them you love them. We take things for granted every day in this world. We take life for granted every day. It's things like this that really make the reality set in."
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