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Pierz firefighter honored after Line of Duty Death

Submitted photo The Fire Academy of North Dakota honored James Reardon by presenting his helmet and the U.S. flag, which had covered his casket, to his family at the burial held Saturday, Aug. 11 in Buckman, Minn.

A Pierz, Minn., firefighter who died while scuba diving on Seven Lake near Frazee was given a great honor recently when flags at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial flew at half-staff in his memory.

It was originally suspected that Jim Reardon, 51, had drowned while out with his diving partner on Aug. 4. Reardon, a member of the Fire Academy of North Dakota, was conducting a 'pre-drill' survey of the lake in preparation for a later training session.

In an email to the Focus, his diving partner and the fire academy's chief, Darrel Graf, said the cause of death was not drowning, but rather cardiac arrest while underwater.

Reardon was the academy's photographer and was videotaping the bottom of the lake. Graf assumed all was well, until he realized there were no visible bubbles in the area. A passing boat joined him in a search and the boater called 911. From the boat, Graf spotted Reardon's body on the lake bottom, in about eight feet of water.

According to Graf's email, the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Department, Vergas Rescue Squad and Perham Ambulance Service immediately responded to the scene, but attempts at resuscitation were unsuccessful.

All of Reardon's scuba gear was working properly, his face mask was in place and the air tanks were three-quarters full. It was later discovered that Reardon's lungs were dry, indicating he did not drown.

Reardon had taken about 25 dives on Seven Lake throughout his career.

He leaves behind a wife and four children. His death is considered a Fire Academy Line of Duty Death.

On Monday, Aug. 6, the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Md., flew their flags at half-staff in his honor. Graf called this, "the most honorable and awesome honor anyone could ever ask for."

A memorial has been established in Reardon's name. Contributions may be made to: Jim Reardon Memorial Fund, Wells Fargo Bank, P.O. Box 5502, Bismarck, N.D. 58506.