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Baltimore Firefighter Suffers Fatal Heart Attack

BALTIMORE -- A 36-year-old Baltimore County firefighter suffered a fatal heart attack Saturday, a day after being released from a hospital for treatment of chest pains he experienced while exercising at his station house, fire officials said yesterday.

Jarrett Dixon, a 10-year department veteran, began having chest pains Wednesday while using a treadmill at the Halethorpe station, where he was assigned as a fire apparatus driver operator, said Elise Armacost, a Fire Department spokesman.

Dixon, who was also a longtime volunteer firefighter at the Liberty Road Volunteer Fire Company, was transported to St. Agnes Hospital for treatment. He was then taken to Union Memorial Hospital to check for blockages, said Michael K. Day Sr., president of the Baltimore County Professional Fire Fighters Association. He was released from the hospital Friday, Armacost said.

About noon Saturday, Liberty Road volunteer firefighters were called to Dixon's home in Owings Mills, where they found him in cardiac arrest, Armacost said.

Dixon was taken to Northwest Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead, she said.

Dixon was to have been evaluated yesterday to determine whether he was physically able to return to duty, Armacost said.

"Certainly we were shocked and saddened that such a young man would have something like this happen," she said.

Dixon was not participating in a formal fitness class, she said.

An internal investigation, which is standard with any suspected line-of-duty death, is being conducted by the department, Armacost said.

Dixon's death is being treated as a line-of-duty death for the purposes of his funeral, Armacost said. The county agency does not determine whether the death will meet the qualifications of the federal Hometown Heroes Act, which is designed to allow families of public safety officers who die of heart attack or stroke within 24 hours of participating in emergency response to collect line-of-duty death benefits.

Dixon joined the department in 1997 as an emergency medical technician and became a paramedic before being promoted to a fire apparatus driver operator in 2003, Armacost said. He spent his career in stations in western Baltimore County, she said.

"He loved the fire service," said Michael Rehfeld, a driver who worked with Dixon. "He was passionate about everything he did."

Dixon, who is divorced, is survived by a 5-year-old son, Day said.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Bernardine Roman Catholic Church, 3812 Edmondson Ave., Baltimore.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

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