Longtime Ottumwa firefighter retires after health scare

An Ottumwa firefighter hangs up his helmet for the last time. “I’ve been in the fire department a little over 33 years,” Mike Craff said. Kraff’s long career as an Ottumwa firefighter has ended. And last year, his life almost did too. In September 2021, Kraff and several friends embarked on a special bucket hunting trip into the Canadian wilderness. “We had gone 16 miles up the mountain on horseback, which took about six hours,” he said. Eventually, Kraff suffered a heart attack. Scrambling to find any help from his friends, Kraff’s mind was prepared for the worst. “Your thoughts go to the family, especially when you have 7.5-8 hours to think about it,” he said. “Because when the rescuers said they couldn’t get to me, that’s when it got scary.” Eight hours before help arrived. Another ten before he could get to a cardiac center. He said he probably wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for his friend who went hunting with him, Jeff Swan, who happens to be a physician’s assistant. “When you’re out in the wilderness, you feel like you’re all alone out there,” Swan said. . “We did that night.” Swann knew that time was working against Kraff. Even if he survived, the damage to his heart would be irreparable. “When I’m sitting next to him all the time, waiting at the camp for a rescue team to arrive, it goes through your mind million thoughts. And one of those thoughts is, ‘There’s nothing I can do here,” Swann said. “I credit it as one of the parts that saved my life,” said Kraff. A year later, Kraff was forced to hang up his firefighter helmet and his coat. His heart can’t handle the hectic life of a firefighter “I just couldn’t compete for the job,” he said. “I don’t have the energy or the breathing capacity to do the job, so it was time to get away.” Now he tells his story to churches and hunting groups, teaching classes on preparedness and the importance of asking for help when you need it .. “I think be your own advocate. If you think something is wrong, keep looking for the doctors,” Kraff said. Health cautiously recovered. And in October, so did Kraff. Redemption hunting trip — finally catching a moose. “It ended up being the perfect hunt,” Kraff said. Kraff has served on the state’s Hazardous Substances Task Force for nearly two decades — the last eight years as vice president. Kraff and Swan recommend that if you go hunting in the deep wilderness, carry a GPS device and a well-stocked first aid kit with aspirin. WATCH: More from Beau Bowman:

An Ottumwa firefighter hangs up his helmet for the last time.

“I’ve been in the fire department a little over 33 years,” Mike Craff said.

Kraff’s long career as an Otuma firefighter has ended.

Your thoughts turn to family, especially when you have 7.5-8 hours to think about it.”

And last year, his life almost did.

In September 2021, Kraff and several friends embarked on a special hunting trip with the closest list deep into the Canadian wilderness.

“We had ridden 16 miles up into the mountains on horseback, which took about six hours,” he said.

Kraff had a heart attack.

Scrambling to find whatever help his friends could, Kraff’s mind braced itself for the worst.

“Your mind goes to family, especially when you have 7.5-8 hours to think about it,” he said. “Because when the rescuers said they couldn’t get to me, that’s when it got scary.”

Eight hours before help arrived. Another ten before he could get to a cardiac center.

He said he probably wouldn’t have made it if it weren’t for his friend who went hunting with him, Jeff Swan, who happens to be a physician’s assistant.

“When you’re out in the wilderness, you feel like you’re all alone out there,” Swann said. “Tonight we did.”

Swann knew that time was working against Kraff. Even if he survives, the damage to his heart will be irreparable.

“When I’m sitting there next to him all the time, waiting at the camp for a rescue team to arrive, a million thoughts go through your mind. And one of those thoughts is, ‘There’s nothing I can do here,'” Swann said.

“I credit him with one of the parts that saved my life,” Kraff said.

A year later, Kraff was forced to hang up his firefighter helmet and coat. His heart can’t handle the hectic life of a firefighter.

“I just couldn’t compete for that job,” he said. “I didn’t have the energy or the breathing capacity to do the job, so it was time to go.”

Now he tells his story to churches and hunting groups, teaching lessons about preparedness and the importance of seeking help when you need it.

“I think be your own advocate. If you think something is wrong, keep looking for the doctors,” Kraff said.

Health cautiously returned. And in October, so did Kraff.

Redemption hunting trip — finally catching a moose.

“It ended up being the perfect hunt,” Kraff said.

Kraff has served on the state’s Hazardous Substances Task Force for nearly two decades — the last eight years as vice president.

Kraff and Swan recommend that if you go hunting in the deep wilderness, carry a GPS device and a well-stocked first aid kit with aspirin.

WATCH: More from Beau Bowman:

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