CROSSVILLE, Ala. -- Crossville firefighter Cody Renfroe is remembered as a dedicated volunteer who enjoyed helping others.
Renfroe, 24, died Wednesday while fighting a house fire in the Painter community, between Geraldine and Albertville.
"He was a very outstanding person, a real go-getter," Kilpatrick Fire Chief Jeff McSpadden said. "He was the type to give you the shirt off his back."
McSpadden and others with the Kilpatrick Fire Department joined firefighters from Geraldine, Aroney and Fyffe as they fought hot spots in the fire at a house on DeKalb County Road 482, not far off Alabama Highway 75.
Renfroe was among the firefighters with the Crossville Fire Department that responded to the fire about 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The fire started when the flue of a wood heater failed, Deputy State Fire Marshal Ray Cumby said late Wednesday.
Cumby and another deputy state fire marshal, Bobby Rollins, were called to investigate.
It appears Renfroe, wearing the proper protective equipment, and another Crossville firefighter went inside the house, apparently to make sure nobody was still inside, Cumby said.
The alarm to the other firefighter's air pack sounded and he went out, believing Renfroe was behind him, Cumby said.
After Renfroe did not come out, it was feared that he was inside the house and unable to get out, DeKalb County Sheriff Jimmy Harris said.
Harris said a Crossville police officer climbed a ladder on the outside of the house and could see through a window that Renfroe was inside.
Renfroe's fellow firefighters were able to get him out a short time later, Harris said.
Harris said investigators with the sheriff's department, along with the state fire marshal's office, will continue the probe, although the fire is believed to be accidental.
Rollins and Cumby said Renfroe's equipment will be checked for a possible failure, but new turnouts and air pack gear was purchased this year.
Renfroe had been a member of the Crossville Fire Department for two years and wrote on his MySpace page, set for public view, that he was pursuing a career as a firefighter with a full-time department.
Renfroe was one of the mainstays of the Crossville Fire Department, an all-volunteer department, said Mike Leath, DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency director and president of the DeKalb County Fire Association.
"He was one of those who stayed around the fire station a lot," Leath said. "He was very dedicated in what he did."
Geraldine firefighter Tony Taylor said he often worked with Renfroe when the departments helped each other out.
"He was a very dedicated firefighter," Taylor said. "He was always there."
Crossville firefighters were sent back to their fire station after the fire was under control and surrounding departments assisted as the investigation was underway. Counselors were called in for the Crossville firefighters, Leath said.
For Leath, a long-time firefighter, and others who were there, the loss of another firefighter is difficult.
"This is hard," he said. "It's like losing a family member. Firefighters are a close-knit group. It affects everybody."
As Renfroe's body was taken to a local funeral home to await transport to Huntsville for an autopsy, volunteers stood watch, Leath said.
He said when Renfroe's body is returned, the vigil will begin again.
"Anytime something like this happens, that is just something firefighters will do," he said.
Leath said he is not aware of a death of a firefighter in DeKalb County in the line of duty since a Mt. Vera firefighter stepped on a hot power line while fighting a fire several years ago.
In the coming days, Geraldine, Aroney and Kilpatrick fire departments will cover for Crossville on fire calls.
"It's a tough time," Leath said. "It will be tough for days to come."
Republished with permission of The Gadsden Times.