By Paul Garrod
PAW PAW – “He was the definition of what the Paw Paw Volunteer Fire Department is,” said the Paw Paw Fire Chief in recalling Paw Paw Fire Department member Lt. Ethan Quillen, who was tragically killed Wednesday, Feb. 22, while responding to a fire call of downed power lines in Almena Township during an ice storm.
Paw Paw Fire Chief Jim DeGroff, IV, said, “Lt. Quillen volunteered 100 percent of the time and never expected anything in return.”
DeGroff said, “Lt. Quillen was a husband and father to his 2-1/2-year-old daughter, He was always smiling and happy.”
DeGroff recalled a conversation with Quillen about being a lieutenant on the department as DeGroff assumed the chief’s position in October of 2022.
DeGroff recalled telling Quillen at the time, “I would be honored if you would be the lieutenant,” said DeGroff, “and serve on Engine 1201.” That fire truck is the main truck used by the department on calls.
“Are you kidding?” replied Quillen to DeGroff.
“No, I’m not,” said DeGroff. You’re my pick.”
“I won’t let you down,” Quillen told DeGroff.
DeGroff was proud of his two assistant fire chiefs who initially rescued Quillen. “I’ve never seen them work so hard in my life,” said DeGroff.
DeGroff also spoke highly of Kalamazoo Public Safety during that Wednesday night tragedy.
“I can’t say enough about KPS in blocking roads in order for the ambulance to get to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo,” said DeGroff.
After Quillen was pronounced dead, a procession of fire trucks and first responder vehicles followed the body to WMED in Kalamazoo.
“Now it’s my turn to not let him down,” said DeGroff, as the department prepares for Quillen’s funeral Saturday, March 4. Visitation will be held beginning at 10 a.m. at Paw Paw High School’s Performing Arts Center (PAC), where funeral services will be held at 12:30 p.m. The procession will exit Paw Paw High School and travel west on Red Arrow Highway. Once in the Village of Paw Paw, it’ll turn south on Kalamazoo Street (M-40 Highway) to Ampey Road. It’ll turn west on Ampey, then north on Gremps Street. Once the procession arrives in front of the Paw Paw Fire Department, it’ll pause briefly in honor of Quillen. It will then continue north back to Michigan Avenue (Red Arrow Highway) then turn east. It’ll then go north on Kalamazoo Street (M-40 Highway) to M-43 Highway, where the procession will end. The family has requested only family members, the Paw Paw Fire Department and select others from that point on to Oakwood Cemetery, Allegan.