Friends, family celebrate life of Grand Rapids firefighter

Posted at 10:25 PM, May 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-15 23:21:37-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Firefighters from across the state paid tribute to one of their own on Sunday. Grand Rapids firefighter David Knisley died last Sunday from smoke inhalation when his boat caught fire in Spring Lake.

Knisley, a 19 year veteran with the fire department, was also a father of two girls. On Sunday, more than 1,000 people paid their respects and said goodbye.

"I can't wrap my head around it," said Lt. Matt Keusch, with the Grand Rapids Fire Department. "It seems really surreal, we just keep expecting David to show up and we just can't believe it, we just can't grasp it. It's been tough."

Ron Zawlocki who was a member with Knisley with the Michigan Urban Search and Rescue Task Force said the loss is devastating.

"It is still pretty hard for us to get a grasp on this that he's gone," Zawlocki said. "He was a guy who shared so much of his knowledge with people in the fire service across the United States."

Craig Powers was among the more than 1,000 people who came from across the state to pay their respects.

"He is a brother firefighter and we feel that we should support that," Powers said, who is a captain with the City of Lansing Fire Department.

"It is a brotherhood definitely," said Jim Garlitz, engineer with the City of Lansing Fire Department. "Everybody who David came in contact with loved him to death. He was a tremendous leader. I never worked for him directly, however people who I spoke to who worked with him loved him."

Knisley’s boat was found on fire early last Sunday morning at a mooring in Spring Lake. His body was later found after the boat had sunk.  Because of the fire, investigators could not easily identify the body as Knisley’s.

Forensics investigators made the official determination, which was announced last Tuesday afternoon.

Knisley had also been involved in the 28th Street Metro Cruise with WKTV in Wyoming and Kentwood.

At the Grand Rapids Fire Department there are small reminders of the legacy Knisley leaves behind. What Knisley is leaving behind, his brother say 'they'll take from here'.

"We'll always be there for the family. Always," Keusch said. "When you are a part of our fire department family we are always here no matter what."

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

Knisley's fellow firefighters have set up a charity fund to go toward paying for his two daughters' college funds.

To contribute to the scholarship fund, checks can be made payable to the Grand Rapids Fire Fighter's Charity Fund C/O The Building Hall. They can be mailed to the Grand Rapids Firefighter's Building Hall located at 1930 Fuller N.E. Grand Rapids, Michigan 49505.