Community Grieves Over Firefighter's Death - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

03/22/04

Community Grieves Over Firefighter's Death

The Fort's Lake community is grieving after the tragic death of a volunteer fire fighter. 40 year old Terri Eiland was killed when the truck she was driving flipped while responding to a forest fire on Cumbest Bluff Road.

Inside the Fort's Lake Volunteer Fire Department the rack where Terri Eiland used to hang her gear is empty. Outside the flag flew at half staff, but spirits were even lower.

"She was like a sister to me. It's just hard," fellow fire fighter Greg Walters said.

"Firefighters are like a family of brothers and sisters. It's not only losing a partner and it's not only losing a friend, but you're also losing a sibling," firefighter Chris Byrd said.

Greg Foster served with Eiland as a volunteer fire fighter. He was also her pastor at Franklin Creek Baptist Church. On the day after her death, Foster was doing his job as pastor, comforting her family and the community.

"She was a person Jackson County needs more of as far as dedication to community and family with a servant's spirit and a servant's heart," Foster said.

A servant who only wanted to help her community. Like her fellow volunteers, Eiland received no pay for her service. Yet she paid the ultimate price by losing her life in the line of duty.

"In Jackson County, most of the time that person responding is not getting paid a dime and they know when they turn that key in the truck that there is the risk," Foster said.

Foster says volunteers weigh those risks, but follow their heart's calling to serve.

"When Terri died last night she wasn't just a fire fighter. She was a mother, and she was a wife, and a sister, and a daughter, and she was a friend."

The wake for Eiland will take place Wednesday night at the O'Bryant Funeral Home in Pascagoula. Funeral services will take place Thursday at 10 a.m. at Franklin Creek Baptist Church.

by Josh Ridgdell

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