PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Cowlitz Count Battalion Chief Mike Zainfeld died Thursday while on medical leave. Zainfeld was a 25-year veteran with the department.
Zainfeld was on leave due to a job-related injury “incurred by occupational stress,” the Kelso Police Department said in a release. He died by suicide around 6 a.m. Thursday.
His first 5 years with the department were as a volunteer firefighter. After completing paramedic training in Tacoma, he was hired full time in 2000 and spent the last 20 years of his career working his way up the ranks from firefighter to lieutenant, then captain and finally battalion chief.
Because he was on medical leave due to a job-related issue, Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue considers his a death in the line of duty.
His colleagues and Washington State Patrol troopers escorted his body to the Thurston County Coroner’s office to be examined.
Zainfeld leaves behind a wife and two teenage boys. They gave the following statement:
“Mickel was a husband, father, leader, mentor, a friend to everyone, and known for his infectious smile. He was loved by many and respected by all. This tragedy does not define Mickel’s commitment to his family, peers, and community. Instead, we ask for this tragedy to redefine how mental health in first responders is looked at. This tragedy is preventable. Until mental health is viewed the same as any physical injury we will continue to lose our heroes: we must grow. Mental illness is not a personal failure. It is not weakness. It is injury. We ask you honor Mickel’s memory by placing yourself first. Know your worth and find the strength to take the first steps in asking for help and never look back. Educate yourself in resilience and self-care, and act upon each one. Be kind to yourself, never punish yourself for something you need. Your emotional well-being becomes a superpower when it’s well maintained. Watch out for each other, don’t be afraid to lend a shoulder to a peer. Even a quiet presence is better than no presence at all. But most importantly stand together, lift each other up, and listen to each other. Together we won’t let the bad days win. Together, we can heal this tragedy.”
Sincerely, the family of Mickel Zainfeld
“This hurts. We will remember Mike, his family, and what they contributed to our organization,” said Cowlitz 2 Fire and Rescue Fire Chief Dave LaFave. “They’re a big part of where we are today. I believe Mike would want us to move forward together. We will support each other and his family as we all get through this loss.”
Kelso police said more information regarding his memorial service will be announced in the coming days.