FELLOWS, Calif. (KGET) – The Kern County Fire Department was not planning on a memorial procession Thursday morning in the town of Fellows but they were compelled to hold one.

Public safety officers – including a fire department helicopter – escorted the body of Station 23 Fire Captain Brian Falk from the tiny westside oil town to the county coroner’s office in east Bakersfield, where more than 100 firefighters, sheriff’s deputies, police officers and EMTs waited to offer a somber greeting and participate in a brief ceremony. 

Falk, a 47-year-old married father of two, died unexpectedly Thursday morning, just age 47. Fire dispatch put out a call just before 7:30 a.m. calling for medical aid for cardiac arrest. The department did not provide further details, except to say Falk died while on duty.

Kern County Fire Chief Aaron Duncan was at the coroner’s office to salute his friend and comrade as the procession arrived amid flashing lights and stiff salutes.

“He and I were in the same academy together,” Duncan said. “Captain Falk was a great man. Great firefighter. A professional. He had a big heart. Made people smile every time they were around him.

Duncan said he was honored to see so many in public safety there to greet his friend.

“I think what you’re seeing here now is the fire family and the safety family and law enforcement family coming together,” he said. “This display of outpouring of love for the fire department, it’s here, it’s impressive, it’s humbling.”

Fellows resident Mariam Hunt lives 100 yards from the fire station. She said Captain Falk and the entire Station 23 crew has always been there for her and residents of Fellows and the Midway Sunset Oilfield.

“They service the community as far as their jobs, as the fire department, they service the oilfield community, but the biggest asset to us is friend,” she said. “They come in and they sit down and they talk to you. They treat what is going on, but they also treat your soul. And it is a comfort to know that they’re there.”

“We are their family,” the fire chief concurred. “They come to us in their worst situations and we’re there for them.”

And that mission continues – minus the services of one well-loved fire captain.

Falk will be honored in a more traditional and formal way later. But for now, Thursday’s procession was the best his grieving comrades could do for him.