An Oden Ridge volunteer firefighter was killed when the fire engine he was driving overturned en route to a fire Thursday afternoon. Jantzen Murrell Frazier, 28, was headed south on Wilson Mountain Road to put out a fire at a neighbor's house when the engine ran off the road and flipped, knocking down a utility pole, about 3 p.m., authorities said.
Frazier, the only person aboard, was killed instantly by blunt force trauma to the head, Morgan County Coroner Jeff Chunn said.
Oden Ridge Fire Chief Jeff Duffey said Frazier, a medically retired soldier and part-time U.S. marshal, was an "amazing guy."
"He was willing to help anybody, anytime. We were so excited to have a guy like him," Duffey said.
Members of the 17-man fire department were somber as they surveyed the demolished cab of Engine 2 and the tangle of hoses and ladders spilled on the roadway and yard of a home where the engine came to rest upright.
They discussed holding a benefit to help Frazier's wife and four young daughters.
Duffey said Frazier was the only Oden Ridge volunteer to die in the line of duty as far as he could recall.
"You accept that it can happen, but you're never prepared for it," he said.
Frazier had been with the department about three months since moving to the area from Hartselle, but was very active in that time, Duffey said.
"He made virtually every call we had, day and night. Every training session, he was there," Duffey said.
Duffey said Frazier recently enrolled in an emergency medical technician course at Calhoun Community College.
As an Army Ranger, Frazier served two tours in Afghanistan and earned four Purple Hearts, Duffey said.
"He was hit 36 times. His bullet-proof vest stopped 28 of those. He took the other eight," Duffey said.
Firefighters from a few other volunteer departments, including Ebenezer, Eva and Somerville, appeared at the scene.
"It's always hard to lose a brother firefighter," said Falkville Police and Fire Chief Chris Free, who also is president of the Morgan County Firefighter's Association. "Especially one who's a volunteer, doing it for free to try and help the neighborhood and the community. It takes a special person to be able to do that."
Frazier is survived by his wife, their four daughters, ages 6, 4 and 2-year-old twins, Sheriff Ana Franklin said.
Franklin said Frazier lived near the home at 630 Wilson Mountain Road that caught fire, and he was the first to call 911 about the blaze. The residents were not home at the time.
"We rely on these volunteers to respond and help their neighbors," she said.
Frazier went to nearby Station 2 to retrieve the fire engine, and the wreck happened as he was coming back down the road, Franklin said.
The sheriff said motor vehicle accidents are the biggest threat to first responders.
"There's always the chance, and you know that," she said.
The wreck remains under investigation. State troopers said they weren't sure what caused Frazier to run off the road. Data that will be downloaded from a module aboard the engine may shed some light on what happened, troopers said.
The truck appeared to have overturned once, troopers said.
Duffey said the crash divided Oden Ridge's manpower and other fire departments were called in to help tackle the fire.
The double-wide mobile home was probably a total loss, he said.
The cause of the blaze had not been determined, and an investigator with the state fire marshal's office was called, Duffey said.
Duffey said Engine 2 appeared to be totaled. Oden Ridge will borrow an engine from Brindlee Mountain volunteers to avoid a reduction in service, he said.
Anyone who would like to assist Frazier's family can call the Oden Ridge Volunteer Fire Department at 256-482-8840.
Written by SETH BURKETT