Tributes pour in from around the community after an Irmo firefighter dies in the line of duty

Published: May. 26, 2023 at 11:42 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A tight-knit community of first responders mourns the loss of one of their own after a service call turned to tragedy.

A fire broke out at Tropical Ridge Apartments off of Stoneridge Drive around 4:15 p.m. Friday.

Fire crews from Columbia, Irmo and Cayce responded to the fire — which was eventually declared a 3-alarm fire — that claimed the life firefighter James Muller, a 25-year-old husband and father.

Once inside, Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said several firefighters were trapped when the building collapsed in multiple places.

“We ended up transporting about seven firefighters,” Jenkins said. “It was five of them from Columbia and and two from Irmo and they were transported.”

Muller — a driver, operator and recent graduate of the Fire Academy — didn’t make it.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Muller succumbed to his injuries while in the line of duty,” Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford said.

This fire is a sobering reminder of the dangers first responders face on every call to service.

Almost immediately after the announcement of the Muller’s death, tributes poured in from around the community.

South Carolina State Fire posted on Facebook, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Irmo Fire District and the friends and family of Firefighter Michael Muller.”

WIS News 10 spoke to Justin Dilger-Ewing who attended a firefighter training with Muller put on by Soda City Training. “I knew James from a truck day class, that man left such an impact on me in 8 hours. More than anyone in the fire service has,” Dilger-Ewing said.

The South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association said in a social media post, “It is a difficult night for the statewide fire service. We ask that you join us in a prayer for peace and comfort for Muller’s family, Irmo Fire, Columbia Fire, and all those who loved him.”

A search of Muller’s name on Facebook pulls up dozens of posts from around the country.

Jefferson Fire Department in Athens, Ga. posted, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Irmo Fire Department, Columbia Fire Department (SC) and to the friends and family of fallen FF James Muller.”

Rep. Jay Kilmartin, who represents South Carolina District 85, posted, “It is with great sadness that we mourn the life of James Muller of the Irmo Fire District, who bravely lost his life in the line of duty today. Elizabeth and I send our prayers to James’ family. We ask that you also keep the six others who were injured in the apartment fire collapse in your prayers.”

Local law enforcement also showed their support with a post on Twitter that said, “Our hearts are broken for Irmo Fire Service and all of the responders on this scene.”

WIS News 10 crews observed crews from Lexington and Richland show up to the Irmo Fire District to pay their respects to Muller.

As more memorials are expected to continue to pop up for Muller, the community also waits to find out the condition of the other injured firefighters and a possible cause.

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