Firefighter James Saunders was a 22-year veteran of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District. He was assigned to Engine Company 101 in the Arcade area. Metro Captain Christian Pebbles says Saunders was a no-nonsense kind of guy.
"He told you right what he thought of you. And him and I butted heads the very first day I met him and that was the last day time we ever butted heads. We got along great for the next 10 years that I knew him."
Pebbles says, although Saunders may have come off gruff to some, he brought a sense of peace and calm to the people he helped.
"…to the lady who was having difficulty breathing or the guy in the car that's pinned, while the firefighters are pulling him out, he would provide that soothness and say 'it's going to be okay, I'll stay with you, I'll stick with you here.'"
Saunders had a heart attack while fighting a grass fire earlier this month…and was removed from life support last week. Pebbles says firefighters may be in tip-top-shape…but they're also human and vulnerable to heart disease like everyone else.
"We are a section of our society and we are put into the fire service. We're moms, we're dads, we're brothers, we're sisters, we're sick, we're injured."
Saunders was 52-years-old. He's survived by a wife, two children and three grandchildren.