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Beloved Minnesota fire captain honored after dying of COVID-19

He's believed to be the first Minnesota firefighter to have died of COVID.

Flags were at half-staff on Saturday across Minnesota as a community remembered Upsala fire Capt. Brian Lange. 

Lange, 55, died on Dec. 11 of an illness he got while working as a firefighter, Gov. Tim Walz said in a news release. The release did not specify what the illness was.

WCCO and WJON are reporting Lange died of complications due to COVID-19, marking the first firefighter to die with the virus since the start of the pandemic. And a Facebook post from the Upsala Fire Department on Dec. 11 says he died after two weeks filled with "prayers and suffering."

Lange was with the volunteer fire department for 22 years, including the last six years as captain, and he also served 10 years on the Upsala City Council. He is survived by his wife of 23 years, two daughters, and a granddaughter. 

“Captain Lange was a dedicated firefighter who was respected by his family, friends, and colleagues,” Walz's proclamation said. “The State of Minnesota recognizes Captain Lange for his dedicated service to, and sacrifice for, his fellow Minnesotans, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and entire community.”

Lange grew up in Upsala, graduating valedictorian of his class in 1985, his obituary says. He went on to attend St. Cloud State University, where he majored in computer programming all while working at Stearns Bank Upsala, where he became bank manager. He started working for Woodcraft Industricts making cabinet doors in 2001. 

Lange's funeral was held on Saturday in Upsala and included a "sea of uniforms" from firefighters across the state and a procession to the cemetery. 

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