Acting Fire Chief Dies in Florida ATV Crash

The acting chief of the Waldo Fire Department was killed Sunday while riding an all-terrain vehicle.

Lt. Hope Powell, 39, was riding an ATV at Gatorback Cycle Park in Newberry when the vehicle overturned on a steep incline and landed on top of her, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

She was not wearing a helmet, but officials said head protection probably would not have saved her life.

Friends said she was riding after serving as a paramedic during an ATV race.

Hope, who had served with the Waldo Fire Department for nine years, was named acting fire chief when Andy Burkhalter, the city's fire chief, was called up for deployment to Iraq with a Navy dive team. This was her second time filling in for Burkhalter during his Navy duty.

The mood in the small of town of about 1,000 people was somber as residents mourned the loss of a woman born and raised there.


"The way she was with the kids and the way they responded to her, I mean, it was just amazing. She was just one big smile," said Waldo Community School's Jeanne Fuchs.

"She touched our lives while she was here and she'll touch our lives forever," said Powell's friend Kelly Duger. "She was a tremendous person and she will be very sorely missed here. There's an emptiness here that, I don't know if there's anyone else that will ever fill her shoes."

Powell is survived by her husband -- a firefighter with the Gainesville Fire Department -- a teenage daughter and her parents.

Visitation for Powell will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Milam Funeral Home, 311 S. Main St., Gainesville, and her funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday morning at the First Baptist Church of Waldo's Family Life Center, 14330 Kennard St.

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