A firefighter with the Town of Black Mountain has died after contracting COVID-19, officials said.
Garrett Presnell, 28, died of complications of the disease, according to statements from several firefighting organizations and Buncombe County officials who observed a moment of silence during an Aug. 31 morning meeting.
“I wanted to share some sad information,” county Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman said, adding Presnell was also a member of Task Force 2, which conducted water rescues during Tropical Storm Fred. “Garrett Presnell was born on April 6, 1993,” Newman said. “He is survived by his wife, Kelsey.”
While Newman said Presnell’s death happened “in the line of duty,” Black Mountain Town Manager Josh Harrold said an investigation was underway and the infection at this point did not appear to be job-related. Newman later said he was working from information he had been presented minutes before the meeting and that Harrold had the best information. Harrold said Presnell died “last night,” though it may have technically been Aug. 31 because it might have been after midnight.
Facebook posts by the firefighting groups noted Presnell’s wife was pregnant and is expecting a daughter, whom they planned to name Kora.
It is not clear whether Presnell was vaccinated. Fire Chief Scottie Harris spoke to the Citizen Times briefly, but said he had to end the conversation to attend to another matter. He could not be reached later for comment.
Harrold declined to comment on Presnell’s vaccination status. The town manager said he knew of one other Black Mountain firefighter who had been exposed to Presnell and was quarantining.
“Of course when we have anyone out of work we have to adjust schedules to make things work,” he said.
Along with Black Mountain, Presnell worked part time at North Cove, Pleasant Gardens and Old Fort fire departments, said a post from McDowell Fire and Rescue Association.
He also volunteered for Sugar Hill-Montfort Cove Fire Department, serving as a lieutenant, the association said.
In 2019, he and four other firefighters were part of a crew recognized as Black Mountain’s company of the year.
“Garrett displayed honor, valor, and pride in his work throughout his years of service to our community. He lived a life of dedication to his family and community. His leadership and caring heart will be greatly missed.”
Donations to the Black Mountain Volunteer Firefighters Association will be used to help Presnell’s family, according to the nonprofit that supports the fire department,
A benefit fishing tournament starting at 5 a.m. Sept. 6 at Black Bear Landing at Lake James will also raise money for the family. McDowell County Fire and Rescue will hold a drive-through benefit dinner to raise money 5-8 p.m. Sept. 18, at Lackey Town Missionary Baptist Church in Old Fort. And a public Facebook group, “In Memory of Garrett Presnell Shirt Fundraiser,” will begin taking $20 T-shirt orders 5 p.m., Aug. 31 with proceeds going to the family.
Joel Burgess has lived in WNC for more than 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He’s written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.