Naples firefighter who contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty has died

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Firefighters in Southwest Florida led a procession for fallen Firefighter Tony Christensen to Gendron Funeral home in Fort Myers Tuesday night.

A Naples firefighter who contracted COVID-19 while on the job has died, the department said Tuesday.

Anthony “Tony” Christensen contracted the coronavirus more than a month ago. He was being treated at NCH in Naples before being transferred to Orlando on July 19 for specialized care.

“Tony served the citizens and visitors of Naples for 22+ years and truly made a difference, receiving multiple lifesaving awards,” the Naples Fire Department said in its announcement.

Those who knew Christensen say he was a trusted friend and mentor and a man who put others first.

Naples Fire Chief Pete DiMaria said everyone in the department is devastated. “We call ourselves brothers, but he was like a real brother to me,” he said.

A brother and a hero; his name forever embroidered in yellow letters on his jacket for 22 years of dedicated service.

DiMaria says the Naples Fire station won’t be the same without him. “Everybody loved him and it’s a loss for our community. It really is.”

His fellow firefighters rooted for Christensen at the hospital every day until he finally lost his battle to COVID-19.

“He was very positive,” DiMaria said. “He told me he was going to walk out of there.”

Now, a heartbreaking reality, the loss of a firefighter who he says will be impossible to replace.

“When he had opportunities to move up, he really chose to stay a firefighter because he enjoyed teaching the young guys that came on the job how important that position was,” he said.

Wearing the hat of a mentor, a brother and a firefighter.

It’s going to be hard to find someone to fill the shoes and the example that he set. It’s impossible and it breaks my heart. This is one of the worst days I’ve had in my 31 years of fire service.

DiMaria said Christensen’s passing should be a wake-up call to anyone who is not taking COVID-19 seriously.

Christensen leaves behind a wife who, as you can imagine, is struggling with his passing.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been finalized.

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