Firefighters know all too well the risks they face on the job, yet they choose to do it every single day. As he ran out of the door for a fire call that fateful night of February 22, 2023, Lt. Ethan Quillen was aware of the danger as he left his dinner table, turning back to kiss his wife, Kaitlyn (Katie), and hug his daughter. As an ice storm raged down on the small community of Paw Paw, Michigan, residents heeded warnings and stayed indoors, but not the firefighters, who are 100% volunteer.
During the storm, the Paw Paw Volunteer Fire Department responded to many calls for trees and lines down. Ethan tragically met his fate that night, while on a call for a downed power line.
Lt. Quillen joined the department on September 19, 2019, a week after he married the love of his life, Katie. Through hard work, dedication, and a gift for firefighting, he was quickly promoted to lieutenant of Grass Rig 1207, and then to engine 1201, the main engine.
Ethan was born to Dean and Sharla on March 18, 1994, in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia. He earned the nickname “Bear,” because he never crawled. Moving around on all fours, with a head of dark hair, he looked like a bear. As a curious and adventurous little boy, he often brought lizards and frogs into the home to surprise his mother. When Ethan was six, his family moved to the U.S., much to the delight of his mother, who no longer had to worry about venomous reptiles hiding in her home.
As a child, he enjoyed trains, trucks, and tractors, a passion he shared with his grandfather. You could always find him climbing on the tractors at the county fair. As a teen, he enjoyed bull riding, wrestling, working on his truck, and playing practical jokes with his high school friends. The school had to rewrite the handbook twice due to their antics.
After high school, he went to college for diesel technology, knowledge that would help save his fire department thousands of dollars in truck repairs. He became a Marine in 2013 and served two tours of duty in Iraq and the Middle East, until his honorable discharge in 2017. He was a proud Marine, proud to serve his country.
In his 28 years, he accomplished many things, one of which was growing a handlebar mustache that most would be jealous of. His proudest accomplishment was becoming a father to his daughter, Loghenn.
Ethan will always be remembered for his leadership, jokes, generosity, willingness to help others, and his mustache. He died doing what he loved to do, serving others. He made the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life for free. He will forever be loved and missed.