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Last updated: Mon. Nov. 12, 2012 - 03:13 pm EDT

Firefighter dies in tanker rollover

Volunteer was driving to brush blaze on Butler Road

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A volunteer firefighter with the Washington Township Fire Department died Sunday night after losing control of a tanker truck and crashing on his way to a brush fire, Fort Wayne authorities said.

The tanker truck was traveling south on Hillegas Road, and the driver was trying to make a right turn to go west on Butler Road when the truck rolled several times. The truck came to a rest on its side about 100 yards south of the northwest Fort Wayne intersection where the Animal Care & Control shelter is located.

"The tanker truck was carrying a lot of water, and water obviously carries a lot of weight and momentum," said Sgt. Mark Brooks, a city police spokesman.

As the truck rolled, it struck three utility poles and brought down live wires. Crews were called to the scene shortly after 8:30 p.m., including Indiana Michigan Power workers who were needed to shut off the power to make the scene safe for first responders, Brooks said.

The firefighter died at the scene. The crash left the truck "completely destroyed," Brooks said.

The firefighter, the only person in the tanker truck, had been taking the water to help fight the brush fire in the 4300 block of Butler Road, Brooks said.

Josh Schaffer, who lives on Hillegas Road less than a quarter-mile from the crash scene, was at home when the crash happened.

"I just heard a big boom, and my power went out," said Schaffer, who was one of many people in the area who lost electricity as a result of the crash.

The crash closed the intersection of Hillegas and Butler roads for several hours.

Shortly after 2:30 p.m. Monday the Washington Township Fire Department escorted its fallen brother from St. Joseph Hospital at 700 Broadway to D.O. McComb & Sons at 1140 Lake Ave., following Main Street and Columbia Avenue.

The name of the fallen firefighter will be released later today by the Allen County Coroner's Office, officials said.

A fire department news conference is scheduled at 4 p.m.

aingersoll@jg.net

In the line of duty

Statement issued Monday on behalf of Washington Township Fire Chief Brian Gillett:

"It is with deep sorrow the Washington Township Fire Department (WTFD) announces the line of duty death of one of their own as a result of a vehicle crash at Hillegas and Butler Roads on Sunday evening, November 11. The County Coroner will be releasing the firefighter's name following positive identification and family notification sometime Monday."


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