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20-year Cowlitz Co. fire veteran dies of suicide

Battalion Chief Mike Zainfeld took his own life, according to police.
Credit: Cowlitz Fire 2

KELSO, Wash. — Battalion Chief Mike Zainfeld has died of suicide, according to Kelso police.

Zainfeld was battling a job-related injury caused by occupational stress. He was on medical leave and not on duty at the time of his death on Sept. 19.

His body was escorted to the Thurston County Coroner's Office.

Zainfeld was a 20-year veteran of the Cowlitz 2 Fire and Rescue, a fire department in Cowlitz County. He also spent five years as a volunteer.

Zainfeld leaves behind two teenage sons and a wife.

“This hurts. We will remember Mike, his family, and what they contributed to our organization. They’re a big part of where we are today," said Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue Fire Chief Dave LaFave. "I believe Mike would want us to move forward together. We will support each other and his family as we all get through this loss.”

Cowlitz 2 personnel consider Zainfeld's death a line of duty event. They plan to honor him and his service, as well as take care of his family.

Zainfeld enjoyed spending time with his family and his German shepherd, Max. He enjoyed the outdoors, fishing, flying his drone and history books.

His family has released the following statement:

“Mickel was a husband, father, leader, mentor, a friend to everyone, and known for his infectious smile. He was loved by many and respected by all. This tragedy does not define Mickel’s commitment to his family, peers, and community. Instead, we ask for this tragedy to redefine how mental health in first responders is looked at. This tragedy is preventable. Until mental health is viewed the same as any physical injury we will continue to lose our heroes: we must grow. Mental illness is not a personal failure. It is not weakness. It is injury. We ask you honor Mickel’s memory by placing yourself first. Know your worth and find the strength to take the first steps in asking for help and never look back. Educate yourself in resilience and self-care, and act upon each one. Be kind to yourself, never punish yourself for something you need. Your emotional well-being becomes a superpower when it’s well maintained. Watch out for each other, don’t be afraid to lend a shoulder to a peer. Even a quiet presence is better than no presence at all. But most importantly stand together, lift each other up, and listen to each other. Together we won’t let the bad days win. Together, we can heal this tragedy.”


Help is available for community members struggling from a mental health crisis or suicidal thoughts. Suicide is preventable.

The Multnomah County Mental Health Call Center is available 24 hours a day at 503-988-4888.

If you or someone you know needs help with suicidal thoughts or is otherwise in an immediate mental health crisis, please visit Cascadia or call 503-963-2575. Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare has an urgent walk-in clinic, open from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., 7 days a week. Payment is not necessary.

Lines for Life is also available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Information about the Portland Police Bureau's Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) and additional resources can be found by visiting http://portlandoregon.gov/police/bhu

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