CLAYTON (WQOW) - The Clayton Fire Department is asking for support and prayers as their fire chief battles COVID-19 in the ICU.
Clayton Fire Chief Don Kittelson, better known as Chief Don, has fought fires for 34 years, and now, the fight is in his own body.
"He cannot speak. He's going to have to go through some therapy to get that ability back," said Jenny Kittelson, Don's wife.
Battling against COVID-19, Chief Don has relied on a ventilator for since Nov. 11 to breathe.
"Especially that first time that I saw him in the hospital, I cried off and on the rest of the day," his wife said.
Mrs. Kittelson describes him as a 6'2" big guy, but after being tube-fed for three weeks, she said he's lost weight and doesn't look like himself anymore.
"It's hard to see somebody that is so strong like that in a condition where they can't do anything for themselves," Jenny said.
Chief Don is currently sedated in the ICU of Regionals Hospital in Minnesota, and his firefighter family is feeling the pang of his absence as well.
"The first locker we hit when we walk down the hall is the chief and usually we're tripping and stumbling over him to get by to our lockers, and he's not there to trip and stumble over, and that's big," said Jenny Bergmann, 2nd assistant chief of the Clayton Fire Department.
His wife said Don's first priority is his family and a close second is the safety of the community.
"He goes out of his way to do little things to help people. If he sees somebody that needs something, he's always there to help," Jenny Kittelson said.
But no matter what, his loved ones just want to see him off a hospital bed and up on his feet.
"Attention supporting Chief Don. Come home safe. We miss you, and we're ready to see you again," Bergmann said.
"I love him and I want him home," his wife said.
Bergmann said their rural community has shown an outpouring of support, but if you'd still like to financially help the chief and his family, you can buy a yard sign that says "We Support Chief Don" for $20 a piece.
All the proceeds are going to the Kittelsons.
You can also send a check in the mail to: Clayton Fire Department, Attn: Supporting Chief Don, P.O. Box 44, Clayton, WI 54004
Bergmann is working with a bank for electronic transfer and will likely share an update on the department's Facebook page when it becomes available.