Community mourns loss of Newton firefighter Bradley Long

Capt. Bradley Long’s uniform is on display at the Newton Fire Department station, one of many departments he dedicated his time and service to.

Long was killed in the line of duty Monday in a diving accident on Lake Norman. He was one of three divers searching for a missing swimmer when the emergency happened.

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The other two divers were pulled from the water, but Long did not make it.

Channel 9 reporter Dave Faherty talked to firefighters and city leaders about his effect on the community.

Faherty saw people stopping by to offer their support to firefighters on Tuesday.

Long’s fellow firefighters have placed his fire gear and helmet on the dash of the fire truck that he responded to fire and emergency calls.

"(He’s) one of those folks who everybody wanted to work with. He was one of those individuals who you always saw a smile on his face. (He) was always willing to do what he could do to help his coworkers and members of the community as well,” said Newton Fire Department Chief Kevin Yoder.

It was members of his own department who agreed earlier this spring that Long should be the one recognized by the local Elks club as firefighter of the year.

Two members of the Elks club shared a photo of Long with Channel 9 after he received the award in April. The Elks club was having a meeting when they learned the news of what happened on Lake Norman.

"A lot of us who were here that day were in that meeting and the meeting just kind of came to a stop. It is devastating for Newton. I don't know if we have ever lost a firefighter," said Elks member Janelle Callahan.

"I do remember he was just joking and laughing and seemed like he was the life of the party,” said Elks member Karen Hoard.

Many of the people in the Newton area are in disbelief over what happened at Lake Norman Monday afternoon. Many people knew Long well, including the town's mayor, who believes the community will come together to support his family.

"We're still in shock. You never expect it to happen. You know it can but you never expect it to happen so we're very saddened by this news,” said Newton Mayor Anne P. Stedman.

This is the second time in a month that firefighters have had to mourn the loss of one of their own.

Pineville volunteer firefighter Richard Sheltra died April 30 after responding to a fire caused by a lightning strike at Edwin Watts Golf store.

He died from smoke inhalation.

Just last week, the community celebrated what would have been his 21st birthday by bringing local firefighters cookies in his honor.

A processional will escort Long's body from Wake Forest-Baptist Medical Center to Bennett Funeral Home in Conover. Marked emergency vehicles will participate Wednesday.

‘He was an angel and God wanted him for a reason’

Faherty has done several stories where he has seen Long up close, helping people in a number of ways.

Earlier this year when a major waterline in Newton broke, Channel 9 was there as Long, along with other firefighters delivered water to the elderly.

Ruby Blake said Long was the one who knocked on her front door. She remembers him well.

“Kind. Beautiful personality and a people person. He’s the kind of person that will be missed and I wish there were more Bradley Long’s in the world,”  Blake said.

Two months later, firefighters said Long was one of several firefighters who responded to a three-alarm fire on Northwest Boulevard.

Just last week, Long helped Mario Crespo whose kitchen was heavily damaged by a fire. Crespo is at a loss for words after learning the firefighters who helped him died while trying to help a family on Lake Norman.

"To hear that he died? Oh, my God," Crespo said.

Joyce Barr was also helped by Long during the water outage.

“He was nice, real nice,” Barr said.

Her neighbors said he also responded to medical calls in the area.

“He was an angel and God wanted him for a reason,” said neighbor Katie Roberts.

A mother sent Channel 9 a photo of Long spending time with her son during a visit to the fire department.

His chief said Long touched many lives.

"Just a great firefighter. He was loved by all the members of the department. We're all certainly grieving the loss of Bradley,” Yoder said.

Channel 9 learned from town officials that Long started his firefighting career as a junior firefighter at Sherrills Ford at the age of just 14.

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