By Katie Fallon
Memorial Day brought a day of mourning for the Sandy Springs Fire Department as one of its own firefighters died while fighting a blaze for the Fulton County Fire Department (FCFD).
Felix Roberts, 41, was working for Fulton’s Fire Station No. 8 early Monday morning when the station responded to a fire in the Glastonberry subdivision in Johns Creek. Because the newly incorporated city does not have its own fire department yet, Fulton County responded. Roberts was an eight-year veteran of the FCFD and had worked for the Sandy Springs department since it debuted in December.
The fire broke out around 5 a.m. at a home occupied by Mardi Baumann, 50, and her fiancé John Callahan, 57. Baumann was able to escape and alert neighbors of the fire, but Callahan remained trapped and perished inside the home. Two other firefighters, Capt. Wayne Gilliard and Capt. Anthony Avery, were injured in the fire.
At the time of the blaze, Roberts was nearing the end of a 24-hour shift. Roberts’ death marks the first time the 29-year-old Fulton County Fire Department has lost a firefighter in the line of duty. In Sandy Springs, Roberts worked at Station 3 on Heard’s Road.
Sandy Springs Fire Chief Jack McElfish said Roberts was not married and had no children. He said Robert’s mother lives in the Tampa area in Florida.
While conducting a search for Callahan, Roberts fell two floors after the floor gave way and he went into cardiac arrest, according to city spokeswoman Judy Parker. Roberts died after being transported to North Fulton Regional Hospital.
“For me, it’s like losing one of my children,” McElfish said.
The fire chief said Roberts was one of the top 13 recruits when the fire department started with its initial 80 firefighters. “He was one of our shining lights,” McElfish said. “He was a classy firefighter.”
Mayor Eva Galambos said Roberts’ death in the line of duty should make all residents think twice about the sacrifices public safety officials make.
“We tend to take for granted the courage and determination which are intrinsic in choosing to become a firefighter,” Galambos said. “Roberts’ untimely death reminds us of how dangerous these jobs are and how much we owe the people who fill them.”
Galambos described Roberts as an unusually dedicated firefighter working full time for both Fulton and Sandy Springs. “His death leaves a painful hole in both departments.”
McElfish said the fire did require mutual aid from Sandy Springs. He said the city sent an engine from Fire Station No. 1 on Spalding Drive to cover Fulton’s Fire Station No. 8 while its crew fought the fire in Johns Creek.