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Beloved fire chief in western Wisconsin dies from COVID-19

The chief of the small town's fire department battled COVID-19 for over a month.
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A small town in western Wisconsin is mourning the death of its fire chief, who died last week after a lengthy battle with COVID-19. 

Donald E. Kittelson, 55, died Dec. 17 at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. The chief of the Clayton Fire Department in Polk County spent more than five weeks at the hospital, according to a family update shared by the Clayton Fire Department. 

An update two days before his passing noted that he was on a ventilator but developed infections in his lungs and the disease also began affecting his blood.

"We lost a hero tonight," Clayton Fire Department's Facebook page announced Thursday. "You have touched so many. Family, friends , Community and YOUR fire department brothers and sisters morn a great man. Love you CHIEF DON- you will never be forgotten."

The town of Clayton was filled with signs with a hopeful message for him to come home, and it spread throughout Polk County and crossed county and state lines as fire departments throughout Minnesota posted the signs. 

Each sign was sold for $20, with proceeds donated to the Kittelson family. 

A celebration of Kittelson's life will be held Saturday, Jan. 2, at the Clayton Fire Hall. It will feature a fire truck procession, with all neighboring fire departments encouraged to participate. 

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