Jim Richards, 49, and a 29 year veteran of the Oran Fire Department, died Monday, October 20, 2003, at Mercy Hospital in Oelwein after collapsing at the scene of a field fire near Oran.
Oran Fire Chief Larry Wedemeier said he didn't believe Jim's death was caused directly by the blaze.
"He was not in the smoke at the time he went down. He was operating the pumper in a clear area," Wedemeier explained. He said he was working with Jim at the truck and saw him collapse. The Oran First Responders were already at the scene and administered CPR until the Oelwein ambulance arrived.
Jim had served as Assistant Chief for 19 years and Chief for four years. He operated Richards Repair Shop in Oran and he and his wife also owned and operated Kountry Krafts in rural Fairbank.
Chief Wedemeier described Jim as "low key, giving, and helpful. There was not a kinder person. He had no issues. He was very dedicated and wanted to give as much as he could. He was someone everyone looked up to for advice and respected his opinion."
When Jim wasn't volunteering at the local fire department you could most likely find him working at his repair shop in Oran. Friends in the community say if there was something wrong with a tractor you could guarantee Jim could fix it. "He was quite a mechanic, he liked to visit, he could do things so quick, could weld anything", said Russell Cummings, a prominent senior citizen. The hearts of the people in the small community of Oran are breaking. "I'll probably miss him on the fire department as much as his own family does, we were pretty close", said Chief Wedemier. Jim is survived by his wife, Jean, and their children, Jessica, a senior at Wapsie Valley High School, and Josh, a freshman at Wapsie Valley.
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Jim at work