Jan. 17–On most evenings, U.S. 78 would be packed with traffic, but on Monday that traffic gave way to dozens of law enforcement vehicles escorting Tracy Sanders home.
Sanders, 44, the Mount Olive Volunteer Fire chief, was killed Friday when a tractor-trailer hit her fire department pickup truck from behind at the intersection of Alabama 77 and Mudd Street in Ohatchee.
“She wanted to save the world,” Sanders’ husband, Randall Sanders, said by phone Monday. “She wanted to always reach out and help someone else.”
Sanders began her career in public safety as a dispatcher for the Anniston Police Department, her husband said.
“That’s where we met,” Sanders said, noting that they’d been married over 20 years. “There wasn’t one thing that drew me to her. It was everything about her.”
Together, Randall Sanders said, the couple had two daughters, Shelby Sanders and Raegan Sanders. She also leaves behind a granddaughter, Baila Sanders.
In 2009 Sanders finished EMT coursework at Gadsden State Community College and in 2013 graduated as an advanced EMT, Calhoun County Coroner Pat Brown said.
Sometime before starting school, Sanders began working at the Fire Department, Brown said.
“She got involved after she started a fire,” Randall Sanders said, chuckling. “She was trying to burn some leaves at the house, and the wind caught the fire and sent it running across the grass. The Fire Department had to come out and the rest is history so to speak.”
Sanders was made chief in 2010 and she devoted her time to the department both as an EMT and as chief, her husband said.
Sanders was on official business Friday when the wreck occurred, which makes her the first firefighter line- of-duty death in the United States for the year, Chris Heisler, with the United State Honor Flag, said by phone Monday. Sanders will be the first female fire chief to be honored with the flag, Heisler said.
Heisler carries the Honor Flag, an American flag given to him shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, to funerals of first responders and soldiers, he said. Heisler and the flag previously made an appearance in Anniston after Anniston police Officer Justin Sollohub was shot and killed.
“It has become a national treasure for the families that have an intimate knowledge of what that sacrifice means,” Heisler said.
Since 2010, Heisler has partnered with Dignity Memorial, a funeral service throughout the country, to cover the costs of the funerals.
“No one should make a dollar off of a fallen hero,” he said. “That family will never see an invoice for the service.”
Randall Sanders was at a loss of words to describe the outpouring of support from the local public safety community.
“Hug your wife, hug your kids, spend some time with them,” Sanders said after a pause. “This is a very tight community and they are a special breed of people.”
A visitation will be held at Miller Funeral Home in Oxford on Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the funeral will be Thursday at 2 p.m. A graveside service will follow the funeral at Vinson Cemetery in Ohatchee.
Staff writer Kirsten Fiscus: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @kfiscus_star.
Original story here.
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