Columbia fire chief remembers fallen firefighter

Chance Zobel (Source: Facebook)
Chance Zobel (Source: Facebook)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Friends, family and colleagues are remembering a fallen Columbia firefighter who was killed in the line of duty Saturday afternoon after being hit by a car on Interstate 20.

Just nine months into his dream job, 23-year-old Chance Zobel's life was cut short while fighting a brush fire on I-20. Interim Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said Zobel was proud to be a firefighter.
Jenkins recalled Zobel's excitement for the job from the very beginning. "I remember meeting with him and he was very eager to get started," said Jenkins. "He was already in the department, he was very eager to get started as a firefighter."

Zobel and another firefighter, Larry Irvin, were putting out a grass fire in the median on I-20 near Clemson Road on Saturday. The South Carolina Highway Patrol said Zobel and Irvin were hit by a Chevy Impala that had been rear-ended by a van.

Troopers said the Impala hit two fire trucks before it struck Zobel and Irvin. Both firefighters were rushed to the hospital. Zobel died, and Irvin is in critical but stable condition.

"I think we all are going to miss a lot about him," said Jenkins. "He was well mannered. You don't find a lot of young men with the mannerisms that he had."

Zobel had humble beginnings at the fire department, according to Jenkins. Three years ago, Zobel was responsible for inspecting fire hydrants. His position was upgraded after a meeting with the chief. "I was interviewing people to be hired and because he was already here with us," Jenkins said. "We knew his desire. We knew he wanted to be a firefighter so we gave him a chance.

Zobel was set to be married to his fiancee in April.  He leaves behind a host of firemen who say he was like a little brother. "We're just going to miss him," said Jenkins.

Chief Jenkins said Zobel is the sixth firefighter in over 100 years of the department's history to be killed in the line of duty. A public memorial for Zobel is being planned, but the exact date has not been set.

Related story:

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved.