Upland Firefighter Sidney Hall
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Chronicle-Tribune/Taylor University
Sidney Hall, a 15-year veteran of the Upland Volunteer Fire Department, died Friday afternoon, two days after being rescued from a burning home by fellow firefighters.
Hall was sent to Parkview Hospital, Fort Wayne, after falling through a floor while fighting the blaze at 7056 E. 100S.
"The family of Upland volunteer firemen would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the fire departments, ambulance departments, Parkview Samaritan helicopter, Parkview Hospital doctors and staff who helped rescue Sid," said a news release sent Friday by the Upland Volunteer Fire Department. "Sid was a valuable member of our family and department and will be greatly missed. We ask that you continue to pray for the family and the Upland firemen."
An autopsy to determine the exact cause of Hall's death is scheduled to be completed this morning in Fort Wayne's Northeast Indiana Forensic Center, Dr. Jon Brandenberger, Allen County coroner, said Friday.
The fire that ultimately claimed Hall's life started in the basement of the home of Eddy Miller, a Marion firefighter.
Friday afternoon, Miller was on his way to Parkview to visit with Hall when he heard news of his death.
"It's definitely a terrible day for the fire departments of the county," Miller said.
As the news of Hall's death began to spread throughout the county, fellow firefighters and friends that knew Hall from former jobs and from his participation as a volunteer firefighter and in musical groups expressed sadness about the loss of a colleague and friend.
Marion Fire Capt. Greg Yeakle, president of Marion Professional Firefighters Union Local 676, said as far as he knows no firefighter in Grant County has died in the line of duty since at least the early 1900s. One firefighter died on the way to a run from a heart attack, he said, but other than that, he believes Hall was the first.
"What's really sad is the guy, he's volunteering, just helping," Yeakle said. "He didn't even get paid. That just says a lot for them guys, the guys who do it and don't get paid."
Scott Harrison, east central Indiana public relations officer with the Indiana Volunteer Firefighter Association, said Hall was a member of the organization, and he noted members of the organization were planning to attend Hall's funeral. They have been in contact with the funeral home that will be handling Hall's arrangements as well as the Upland Volunteer Fire Department.
"Our prayers and sympathy go out to the family," Harrison said.
Hall is survived by his wife and two children.
State Fire Marshal Roger Johnson said it was difficult to take the loss.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life to be there today with the family as this moment approached and we knew the end was near," Johnson said Friday. "My heart just went out."
Former co-workers at Taylor University employed in the university's buildings and grounds department where Hall worked for 20 years in the maintenance department also were taking the news hard, said Ron Sutherland, Taylor University's vice president of finance.
"Sid Hall was a very good man, and he had a servant's heart. Many of us knew Sid and his love and compassion for (Taylor University)," Sutherland said in an e-mailed statement. " ... Many knew Sid personally and have been deeply impacted by his death. There are many tears among them right now, and I know they would value our prayers."
Hall was also an accomplished trumpet player who participated in both the Mississinewa Valley Band and The Salvation Army's band, said Glenn Welch, bandmaster with The Salvation Army's Marion branch.
"He was a very dedicated band member," Welch said. "They lived a half-hour away but he made sure he came to rehearsals and church every Sunday. He was a fine player."
Welch also said Hall contributed more than just his trumpet abilities to the Marion Corps of The Salvation Army.
"You knew he was always there, ready to help, but he wasn't going to push you over and try to take over," Welch said. "He did electrical work in The Salvation Army Corps building, and he installed spotlights in the chapel." Welch said the last time Hall played was during the band's November concert. Now, Welch is mourning not only a fine musician, but a friend.
"There's been times you know somebody that dies and you feel sad for the family, but it seems more disconnected. But not with Sid. He was definitely a true friend," he said.
Larry Vlaun, a clarinet player with the Mississinewa Valley Band, also was saddened to hear the news of Hall's death.
"He always showed up to rehearsals. He never missed any, and I think that was indicative of the character he had, always willing to volunteer his time," Vlaun said. "Whether the weather was good or bad, Sid would always show up for rehearsals or the concerts themselves."
Hall was trapped after the fire burned a hole through several stories of Miller's home.
Marion Fire Chief Steve Gorrell said a main problem firefighters faced was that the fire began in the basement, the result of faulty wiring.
"The worst fire a firefighter can face is a basement fire, because it burns through the floor," Gorrell said. "When they arrived, the floor was already burned out. What they do is they go in the front door, and when you open the door, that heavy black smoke comes barreling out and you immediately go to your knees. You have to be very cautious, and there are times you are right near the hole and you don't realize it."
Gorrell also said it was possible Hall became tangled in wiring when he fell and was unable to see to pull himself out of the hole.
"It was just a matter of pulling himself back out, but he was wrapped up in the wiring," Gorrell said. "It was an intense fire with a lot of smoke, and he couldn't see what was wrapping him up."
One thing Gorrell did note, however, was that Hall was not injured because of bad decision-making.
"He went through every precaution he was trained to do, but it doesn't matter. It's still a very dangerous job, and things are going to happen," Gorrell said.
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Visitation is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 12 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Rediger Chapel at Taylor University, 236 W Reade Ave, Upland, Ind.
Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 13 at 10 a.m. at the Odle Gymnasium at Taylor University, 236 W Reade Ave, Upland, Ind.
Burial will follow at Green Park Cemetery, Portland, Ind.