Baltimore County firefighter dies during training exercise

A 58-year-old Baltimore County firefighter died Friday afternoon after he suffered a suspected heart attack during training, officials said.

Robert Fogle III, a 27-year veteran and career firefighter, was participating in exercises at the Sparrows Point training facility when he became ill. He was taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

"It just reminds us about the sacrifice that our first responders do each and every day and the risks that they take to be fit and capable of helping others," Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said.

Officials said Fogle had gone with an engine crew and medic crew from the Pikesville station to the Sparrows Point facility for routine training at 1 p.m. They first did "operations readiness training," which involved firefighting skills such as climbing stairs and lifting ladders, said Fire Chief John Hohman.

After a break, the group went to "the maze," a trailer where firefighters must use their breathing apparatus to navigate through an unfamiliar area. No smoke was used, Hohman said.

When it became clear Fogle was in distress, he was quickly removed and treated, Hohman said.

"It wasn't long at all. The maze is designed in such a way that when something like this happens, they can dismantle things and get somebody out fairly quickly. The crew was right there," Hohman said.

It was there that Fogle suffered an apparent heart attack and was rushed to the hospital, where he died.

All firefighters complete the training annually, Hohman said. This is the first death at the training center. He said there will be an internal investigation into Fogle's death.

Fogle's death is considered a "line of duty" death, Kamenetz said, the first in the county in 2014.

Last year, Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Company firefighter Gene Kirchner, 25, died of injuries suffered as he searched for victims in a house fire. Two years earlier, Mark Falkenhan, a firefighter with the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company, died fighting an apartment fire in Hillendale.

Fogle was respected by his colleagues, Hohman said. Known as a handyman, he had just built a large table for the Pikesville station.

"He was loved by everybody," Hohman said.

Fogle was also active in a volunteer department in Carroll County, Hohman said.

On Saturday, Gov. Martin O'Malley ordered the Maryland state flag be flown at half-staff until sunset on the day Fogle is buried.

Stephen Wantz, president of Pleasant Valley Community Fire Company, who also served with Baltimore County before retiring and was friends with Fogle for many years, said his colleagues are "completely devastated."

He said Fogle was "a fantastic individual."

"He always had a smile on his face. He was very jovial. He fit in everywhere he was. He just a great, great guy."

Wantz said Fogle was an instructor the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association, where he taught high school students interested in emergency services.

"He loved it," Wantz said. "The fire service was his life."

Fogle is survived by his wife, Carol; daughter Casey, a college student; and son Garrett, a police cadet in Howard County.

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