Irmo Fire Chief talks about the death of firefighter James Muller

Flowers lay down in memory of firefighter James Michael Muller.
Flowers lay down in memory of firefighter James Michael Muller.(Ty Wilson)
Published: May. 28, 2023 at 7:56 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - This is the first time the Irmo Fire District has dealt with the loss of a firefighter in the line of duty.

The Irmo Fire District opened in 1963.

Fire Chief Mike Sonefeld spoke to WIS about the tragic death of firefighter James Muller.

People who worked with him say Muller was an American hero.

Irmo Fire District Fire Chief Mike Sonefeld says, “James Muller was passionate beyond any firefighter that I ever met or encountered. He was the epitome of what a firefighter should be, should look like, just wrapped in the one human being. Just amazing.”

Putting his life on the line like he did so many times before, trying to save others.

The 25-year-old husband and father paying the ultimate price.

Muller fighting a fire at the Tropical Ridge Apartments in Columbia. It appears part of the structure fell on him, trapping him. He was taken to a hospital and did not survive his injuries. His loss is felt in the hearts of all who knew him.

Sonefeld says “It was just devastating. There is no other word for it and the cycle that comes after that as for the 40 firefighters here and you know what’s coming in the family and how are you going to deal with that and how are you going to tell them. It was just an explosive amount of emotion to deal with.”

His family, those who love him, and his fellow firefighters are left with a huge hole in their hearts.

“It’s an emotional roller coaster. You see it in waves hour after hour, sometimes we are crying, sometimes we’re laughing. The hole is already being filled because of who he was. You say the name, James Michael Mueller and you have to smile. If you’re not smiling it’s because you didn’t know him. So that is how we are going to heal. You already got me smiling because you bring up his name and it just brings a smile. Awesome memories,” said Chief Sonefeld.

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