Clayton firefighter who died during battle with COVID-19 to leave lasting legacy with town

Johnston County News

CLAYTON, N.C. (WNCN) – A Clayton firefighter who tested positive for COVID-19 in August has died from complications of the diease, Clayton officials announced Wednesday.

Jason Dean was deputy chief of Operations and Training with the Clayton Fire Department and had been a firefighter for more than 20 years, according to Town of Clayton spokeswoman Stacy Beard.

Dean, 42, leaves behind his wife of more than 16 years and daughters ages 13 and 7.

Beard said Dean had a pre-existing condition.

“It can’t be measured the contributions that he’s made to our town. The only thing that comes close are the lives that are saved by firefighters, the rescues that are made, the fires that are extinguished.  He had a hand in training every one of these folks. I think he’s looking down proud,” said Clayton Mayor Pro-Tem Jason Thompson.

Dean was born and raised in Clayton. 

He and Thompson lived together after Dean graduated from Clayton High School.

“I can’t imagine going into the station without him being there and seeing the firetrucks go out now and him now being a part of that response,” said Thompson.

Dean served three years in the U.S. Army.

He joined the Clayton Area Rescue as a paramedic in the mid-1990s, according to Beard. 

In 2000, Dean joined the Clayton Fire Department as a volunteer and worked his way up through the ranks.

Thompson and Beard both credit Dean for bringing rescue operations to the Clayton Fire Department.

“Jason was about rescuing. He was about getting into small confined spaces or jumping on a boat or climbing on a water tower,” said Beard.

Beard, whose husband is also a Clayton firefighter, said Dean was focused on the importance of training and went around the state both teaching and taking courses.

“No matter what happened – Jason was ready for it. He prepared, he trained, he prepared,” she said.

Mayor Jody McLeod said Dean’s legacy will leave an impact on the Town of Clayton and the Clayton Fire Department for the next 20-30 years.

McLeod said for years, Dean pushed for the Department to get a ladder truck. 

It finally arrived at the station two days before Dean’s death.

“Jasons’ wife went to his hospital bed and let him know today was the day that ladder truck came to Clayton and it was all systems go. He blinked twice. We know Jason knew that that ladder truck was here in the Town of Clayton,” said McLeod.

Dean was one of 17 Clayton firefighters diagnosed with COVID-19 in August.

According to Beard, one other firefighter and a spouse remain in the ICU at Johnston Health Smithfield battling the virus. 

She said the remaining firefighters have recovered and are back at work. Beard said they’ve had no new cases since Aug 19. 

CBS 17 spoke with Jason Dean’s wife, Kristy Dean, about her husband’s battle against COVID19 last month.

“The love and support from the community is overwhelming,” she said.

Dean said her husband was initially symptom-free and self-isolated at home. 

However, she said a few days after testing positive he began showing symptoms and went to the hospital.

Donations to the Clayton Firefighters Association will be given to the Dean family and the other Clayton firefighter and spouse who are still battling COVID-19. Just go to ClaytonFire.org.

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