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Fallen Firefighter's Tribute To Take Place in Redding

Firefighters in Bethel and Redding will celebrate the life of George Marshall Sanford, 67, who died on Sunday, April 15 while responding to a call.

First Lieutenant George Marshall Sanford, 67, . Gone but not forgotten, Sanford's life will be celebrated later on this week with a wake and tribute ceremony planned on Thursday and Friday. 

In Redding, Sanford was a former chief of the  and was serving as First Lieutenant of Engine 1. 

According to Chief Ron Van Oostendorp of the Redding Ridge Fire Company, Sanford succumbed to medical causes that have not yet been determined, on Sunday April 15, at 6:31 p.m. while responding to a fire.  

Sanford had been a member of the Redding Ridge Fire Department for over 50 years and was a member of the Bethel Fire Department for over 12 years, according to Chief Fred Ingram. 

“If you look at the different ways there are to go, that’s the way Marshall would have wanted it,” Van Oostendorp said.

According to Van Oostendorp, Sanford was preparing to leave for a fire. 

“When we get a call, we don’t know how big the fire might be.”  

Van Oostendorp explained that yesterday’s call came in as a brush fire at the Redding Country Club. All three departments were called out.

“The adrenaline gets going," Van Oostendorp said. "When we got there it was a very small fire. If we used 50 gallons of water to put it out, that would be a lot.” 

They turned back to return to the West Redding and Georgetown Fire Departments, and when one of the firefighters returned to West Redding, he found that Marshall had collapsed in the process of leaving. 

“The ambulance was running when they got there,” Van Oostendorp said. “They all did what they were trained to do; everyone went into rescue mode.”

“When there is a fire, you get your juices churning, and that may be what happened to Marshall,” he said.

Oostendorp described Sanford as a “real fire buff” and an integral part of the fire department.

“He had nozzles and helmets from all over the country and every place he visited. During Open House, he would fill the bays (in the fire house) with his equipment and toys. When he wasn’t here, he was in Bethel doing EMT, and he also volunteered at the Danbury Hospital. He lived, ate and breathed fire and EMS.”

"Marshall drove our ambulance, and he was here every Thursday for volunteer ambulance service," Ingram said. "He did fire service and anything else we needed him to do. He served as President and Vice President of the Bethel EMT.”

“He would frequently offer his services,” Ingram continued. “We have a museum, and he has been involved in that. He often would help out in the high school EMT training class.” 

“He was the heart and soul of the fire department," Van Oostendorp, noticeably emotional, said. "He was the epitome of what being a fire fighter is. He came up the ranks to become chief, and he served as the EMT. That is what he was doing yesterday.”

Pam Barnett, Redding firefighter and EMT, said Sanford was "irreplaceable." 

"He would do anything for you, give you the shirt off his back," she said. "That’s the kind of person he was. Dedicated and kind.”

Both Sanford’s parents were in the Redding Company, and he became a member when he was between 14 and17 years old, Ingram said. 

“He would frequently offer his services,” Ingram said. “Nobody ever had a bad word to say about him. He could get along with all sorts. If you ever wanted to define what a fireman was, it would be Marshall Sanford. He touched a lot of people’s lives, he was always someone you could count on.”

The fire department will be paying a tribute to Sanford.

“We expect it will be a pretty big deal with all of the lives he has touched,” Van Oostendorp said. 

A wake will be held at Bethel Funreral Home, 215 Greenwood Ave, Thursday, April 19, from 5 to 8 p.m.  

The funeral will be held on Friday morning 11 a.m. in the small cemetary next to the Redding Ridge Fire House, located at 186 Black Rock Turnpike. The procession will begin to line up at 10:30 a.m. There will be a reception following, at the fire house on Black Rock Turnpike.  

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