Black Mountain firefighter Garrett Presnell dies of COVID-19

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A firefighter from the town of Black Mountain has died after contracting COVID-19, officials said.

Garrett Presnell, 28, died of complications from the disease, according to statements from several firefighting organizations and Buncombe County officials who observed a minute’s silence at an Aug. 31 morning meeting.

“I wanted to share some sad news,” County Board of Commissioners Chairman Brownie Newman said, adding that Presnell was also a member of Task Force 2, which performed water rescues during Tropical Storm Fred. “Garrett Presnell was born on April 6, 1993,” Newman said. “He is survived by his wife, Kelsey.”

Following:Buncombe County’s COVID-19 positivity rate rises 2 points week over week

While Newman said Presnell’s death occurred “in the line of duty”, Black Mountain Town manager Josh Harrold said an investigation is underway and the infection at this stage did not appear to be work related. Newman later said he was working from information presented to him minutes before the meeting and that Harrold had the best information. Harrold said Presnell died “last night”, although technically it could have been August 31, as it could have been after midnight.

Facebook posts from firefighter groups said Presnell’s wife was pregnant and expecting a daughter, whom they planned to name Kora.

It is not known if Presnell has been vaccinated. Fire Chief Scottie Harris spoke briefly to the Citizen Times, but said he had to end the conversation to take care of another matter. He could not be reached later for comment.

Harrold declined to comment on Presnell’s vaccination status. The city manager said he knew of another Black Mountain firefighter who had been exposed in Presnell and was in quarantine.

“Of course when we have someone out of work we have to adjust the schedules to make things work,” he said.

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Along with Black Mountain, Presnell worked part-time with the North Cove, Pleasant Gardens and Old Fort Fire Departments, a message from the McDowell Fire and Rescue Association said.

He also volunteered for the Sugar Hill-Montfort Cove Fire Department as a lieutenant, the association said.

In 2019, he and four other firefighters were part of a crew recognized as Black Mountain’s Business of the Year.

“Garrett has shown honor, bravery and pride in his work throughout his years of service to our community. He has lived a life of dedication to his family and his community. His leadership and caring heart will be sorely 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. on September 6 at Black Bear Landing on James Lake will also raise money for the family. The McDowell County Fire and Rescue Service will host a fundraising drive-in dinner from 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 orders for $20 T-shirts at 5 p.m. on August 31, with proceeds going to the family.

Joel Burgess has lived at the WNC for over 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He has written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Help support this kind of journalism by subscribing to the Citizen Times.

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