Funeral arrangements set for firefighter killed in the line of duty

Chance Zobel (Source:
Chance Zobel (Source:
I-20 Saturday Afternoon (Source:SC DOT)
I-20 Saturday Afternoon (Source:SC DOT)

By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Funeral arrangements have been set for a Columbia firefighter who was fatally hit by a car while tending to a brush fire along Interstate 20 Saturday afternoon.

A memorial for 23-year-old Chance Zobel will be held at 1:00pm Wednesday at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, followed by a burial service at Shady Grove United Methodist Church in Irmo. Columbia Interim Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said Zobel's family will receive friends from 6:00-8:00pm Tuesday at the Dunbar Funeral Home in Irmo.

Station 4 considers itself a team. Zobel was a rookie -- by the numbers, that is. "He did everything with such ease, you didn't have to tell him anything," said Engineer Ron Zimmerman. "He's almost like a veteran, getting in the morning before I did, and would have the saws cranked up and checked the truck out, checked his equipment."

Zimmerman would know -- the two worked in close quarters, with Zimmerman driving the truck and Zobel riding in the back. "The truck is a crew and the crew looks after each other," said Zimmerman.

On Saturday, he did just that. Zimmerman was working a fire in a median with his team of four, when two of them were hit by a car. "All I know is I wanted to help, couldn't sit around and be freaked out about it," said Zimmerman. "That's not what we do. We don't freak out and run and panic, you have to stay calm and do your job."

And he did. Zimmerman says he rendered help to the two men who are normally helping others. While firefighter Larry Irvin survived, Zobel died.

"Once it's etched in your mind, it's just gonna be there whether you want to forget about it or not," said Zimmerman. "Not like you can hit a delete button, it's always gonna be there."

After 16 years on the job, Zimmerman knew this could happen. After only a few months into his job, Zobel did too. He'd even talked about his funeral. "We'd just talked about how he was worried people wouldn't be there for his," reflected Zimmerman. "I said, 'everybody's gonna be there for yours.'"

And they will. On Wednesday morning, the firefighters will become pallbearers and walk beside the man they worked beside.

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