DELAWARE COUNTY, Ohio — At just 39, Washington Township firefighter, Charles Swank, died after a training exercise in Florida last week, leaving behind a wife and five children.
The flag at station 95 in Washington Township flies at half-staff honoring one of their own.
“The biggest thing he taught us is his work ethic. He had a lot of grit and worked very hard. He expected nothing less from any of us,” said son Kasey Swank.
Kasey explains it's still hard to come to terms that his dad, his hero, won't be coming home.
“Us kids are really understanding of how much dad meant to people and what he did. Dad would have thought this whole thing was crazy. He probably was laughing all the way home from Dublin,” Kasey said.
Charles was training in Florida when he collapsed. His family says he died of a heart attack. His body was brought home earlier this week with first responders paying their respects along the route.
Leo Swank, Charles' older brother, was serving overseas when he heard the news.
“I was devastated,” Leo said.
Service runs in the family.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Charles decided he would sign up to serve the country and was awarded the bronze star.
Brother Leo, and their dad, both served in the military and were firefighters.
Their dad, at 50, died a similar death.
“I firmly believe it is a genetic thing. The circumstances around it are very eerily similar from when dad died,” Leo explained.
His other family, the firehouse family, say Charles was a mentor, a leader, someone you wanted to work with.
“It still hasn't set in. It's tough,” said Washington Township Firefighter, Joe Curry. Curry worked the same shift with Charles for five years.
In addition to volunteering as a coach for several teams for his kids, Charles always wanted to learn and become the best firefighter he could be. He founded the Central Ohio FOOLS, or Fraternal Order of Leatherheads Society, a group dedicated to training.
“He did it for the fire service. His thought was he did it for the fire service, and that's the legacy he leaves behind,” Curry said.
To help care for his 5 children, Central Ohio FOOLS have set up a GoFundMe.