JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department is mourning the loss of another firefighter.
Mike Freeland died after he collapsed while trying to rescue the driver of a U-Haul truck that struck a concrete utility pole early Thursday morning.
Freeland, 36, had been a firefighter for more than seven years and had been an engineer at Fire Station 73 for the last two years.
Powers described Freeland as a “very good firefighter, very energetic. He loved to serve the community.” Powers said he had a “servant heart.”
News4Jax was told Freeland was engaged to be married and studying to take an exam to qualify for promotion to lieutenant.
This was the third line-of-duty death the department has suffered since June.
“We have a department that’s pretty distraught right now,” JFRD Chief Keith Powers said.
“Mike is just a great human being,” said Terrance Jones of the Jacksonville Brotherhood of Firefighters. “He was young ... full of ambition, vigor.”
Jones is asking for prayers for those who knew him.
“Right now we’re hurting, so just kind of -- if you see a firefighter just, you know, give them a hug because ... he needs one and she needs one,” Jones said.
Condolences have spread all over social media. People have changed their profile pictures in Freeland’s memory. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted:
“My thoughts and prayers are with @TheJFRD Fire Fighter Mike Freeland, his family & his brothers and sisters with the department. My family and I are praying for you in this difficult time. Mike, thank you for your service to the @cityofjax. May you Rest In Peace”
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office calls-for-service page shows the crash happened at 12:39 a.m. at Aviation Avenue and Lake Newman Street -- near Cecil Commerce Center.
JFRD spokesman Eric Proswimmer spokesman said Freeland was working with firefighters at the scene “involving a prolonged extrication.” Powers said firefighters had been working for almost 30 minutes to free the driver of the crashed truck.
Powers said Freeland was in the back of the U-Haul truck trying to find another way into the cab when he stepped out and collapsed. His fellow firefighters provided advanced life-saving care and he was rushed to UF Health Jacksonville, where they said he died just after 2 a.m.
Powers said there was some speculation there was a wire down from the utility pole was on the ground nearby, “but until the medical examiner tells us that, we don’t know for sure.”
The three JFRD line-of-duty deaths this year were the first the department has suffered since 2018.
Capt. Thomas Barber, who served the department for 21 years and was 51 years old, died from a heart attack in June within hours of completing his shift. Lt. Mario Moya, who died with COVID in August, had been with JFRD for 17 years. He was also 51.