A community is grieving the loss of a volunteer firefighter. People who knew Jantzen Murrell Frazier said he was a hero.
The 28-year-old Oden Ridge firefighter was killed in an wreck in Morgan County Thursday afternoon. He was driving a tanker to the scene of a fire on Wilson Mountain Road, just south of Highway 36.
Frazier saw smoke coming from the house behind his own. He called it in, retrieved the tanker truck, and was on the way to the fire when he lost control of the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. State Troopers reported Friday that he was not wearing a seat belt at the time.
"Those who knew Jantzen tell me he was a hero in life, and he died a hero. He was a four-time Purple Heart recipient, an Army Ranger, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Soon after returning, he joined the Oden Ridge Fire Department," said Chief Jeff Duffey.
Duffey said it is hard to believe a man who did so much in such a short life is gone.
"He was on virtually every call since the time he joined our department. Day or night, Jantzen was there. We've just got a hole. It just hurts," Duffey said.
Firefighters and other first responders had a job to do, fighting a fire, responding to a deadly accident. But as the night went along, the tragedy set in that they had lost one of their own.
Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin said the fire Frazier was responding to destroyed the home. The sheriff also said she is working on a fundraiser to help Frazier's family.
Friday, the flag at Oden Ridge was at half-staff as the gravity of the situation finally began to sink in. Firefighters received emotional support from neighbors and the State Firefighters' Association.
Firefighters from other areas have volunteered to take calls in the area while the Oden Ridge crew recovers. The chief said right now, his thoughts remain with Frazier's family and four little girls left behind.
"This was a tremendous fellow. Energetic and always responding to help anybody," said Duffey.
State Troopers continue to investigate the accident, and the state fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire Frazier was responding to.
Jantzen Frazier's visitation will be Tuesday at Peck Funeral Home from 5 to 9 p.m. His funeral will be Wednesday at 2 p.m. at First Methodist Church in Hartselle.
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