Excerpts from the journalstand.com:

In 2001, Mike Pontius responded to an attic fire on Douglas Street that eventually took his life. The longtime Freeport firefighter was overcome with heat and never recovered from the incident. He passed away in 2016 from ailments related to the fire, giving his death “in the line of duty” status.

Mike spent 15 years after the 2001 fire dealing with ailments and an illness that eventually left him unable to walk. He never fully recovered from the 2001 fire. His wife, Dawn, says his behavior and decision-making changed, and his cognitive functions were weakened. An MRI indicated his brain was deteriorating. He suffered from seizures and spent a week in a coma.

The fire exposed him to a chemical called toluene that was found in his blood stream, causing a progression of brain damage, according to radiology reports. 

Now, his 21-year-old daughter, Kirsten, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, is learning some life lessons from her deceased father. She keeps a photo of him on her desk, talking to him when she studies, and says his perseverance still inspires her.

Kirsten recently was awarded a $3,000 scholarship from the International City/County Management Association to continue her education as a junior in the radiology program. The scholarship Kirsten was awarded is presented annually to surviving children and spouses of firefighters, police officers, and other public employees who have died in the line of duty.


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