A central Florida community came together Saturday to honor a fallen member of Marion County Fire Rescue.
The department has lost two members to suicide this year, according to the fire chief.
Funeral services for paramedic Allen Singleton were Saturday morning in Ocala.
Singleton served the department for six years before his death last week. He left behind a wife and two children.
Last month, the department lost firefighter Tripp Wooten. He was a 14-year veteran of the department.
Chief James Banta wrote in an online tribute that Wooten “never met a stranger and possessed a sense of humor that brightened the days of all who came in contact with him.”
Wooten also left behind a wife and two children.
Wooten and Singleton’s deaths have raised concerns about the mental health strains first responders continuously face, from long hours and PTSD to substance abuse and addiction.
In a video message, Banta issued an emotional plea to the department and the community as they work through these losses.
“I need each of you to be my eyes and ears. I shoulder the burden of leading us out of this crisis, but I cannot do it alone,” Banta said. “Please ask the tough questions. We owe it to each other, as coworkers, as friends and as family.”
Mental health strike teams from the International Association of Firefighters will be available for Marion County firefighters and support staff, starting next week.
If you or someone you know is struggling and need someone to talk with, you can call or text 988.
More important numbers
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 (TALK); 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Text TALK to 741741 (suicide)
Text HOME to 741741 (crisis)
Children Home Society’s Family Support: Warm Line 1-888-733-6303 (chslistens.com)
United Way: Dial 211 for 24-hour crisis intervention and suicide prevention
Heretomorrow: Helpline in Neptune Beach available Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-8 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. — (904) 372-9087 (heretomorrow.org)
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