“He was my best friend,” said the 17-year old.
“Full of so much love, always there for us, I was lucky to have him as a big brother.”
Nate Fruin, 22, passed away on Tuesday after going into cardiac arrest while working as a volunteer firefighter with the Mattawan Fire Department.
He was on his way to help with a Tuesday evening fire call at a home off M-43 in rural Van Buren County. Fire crews say a space heater had caught fire, igniting a garage and part of the home.
“The homeowner heard a noise and came back out to look at the garage and at the point when he opened the door flames came out,” explained Mattawan Assistant Fire Chief Chad Horton.
The homeowner suffered minor burns, but is okay.
As crews knocked out the fire, firefighter Nate Fruin was called to bring out some extra equipment.
Mattawan Fire Chief Terron McLean said Fruin had left from the Mattawan fire station, located at 55697 North Main Street , to head out to the scene.
He was riding with his cousin, who was also assisting with the call, but they didn’t make it even a mile down the road.
“His partner called and said there were some problems with what looked like a medical problem,” said Chief McLean. “We arrived there and he was in cardiac arrest.”
Fire and emergency crews worked on the young man until he was rushed to Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The sudden loss was a huge blow to his family, fellow firefighters, and the entire Mattawan community.
“He was just a real good kid,” said Chief McLean, choking back tears.
The 35-member volunteer fire department received phone calls of support from fire departments across the region on Wednesday.
“Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, just saying ‘hey do you need anything?'” Chief McLean said.
Fire crews were back at the same scene in Van Buren County on Wednesday putting out hot spots, but with heavy hearts.
“We are just sticking together as a family and supporting each other,” said Assistant Mattawan Chief Chad Horton.
The fire station flag was flown at half staff on Wednesday as firefighters continued to work.
Nate Fruin was a five-year veteran to the department. He also worked as a dispatcher at Ralph Moyle Inc, a trucking company located next to the fire station.
Fruin was a Mattawan High School graduate and was close with his two siblings, cousin, and parents. He was well known in the community.
For those who knew him best, this is going to be a tough journey.
“We all loved each other,” said younger brother Alex Fruin.
His family was proud of the person he had become. Nate’s mother posted a picture on Facebook wearing her son’s firefighter hard hat.
An autopsy is being done to determine the exact cause of death.
Friends say Fruin had recently lost weight, but no word on any prior health conditions.
The family is working with the department on putting together a funeral with full firefighter honors.