- McLeansville Fire Department, Inc.
- North Carolina
- Age: 32
- Year of Death: 2002
Submitted by her husband
Sandy was an angel of light shining through on a cloudy day. You never saw Sandy that she wasn’t smiling and happy about everything. Sandy had an upbeat attitude and a passion for life. All you had to do was mention the fire service and she was ready to talk. Even when times were tough she brought happiness to many.
Sandy and her husband Joe met at Wal-Mart when the two began talking about the fire service. When they met Sandy was a new volunteer firefighter in her hometown of Eden and was eager to learn as much as she could. She was the first female firefighter for the City of Eden. She had a goal of becoming a career firefighter and obtaining as many certifications as she could. Joe was a career-training officer at Fire District #13 in Guilford County and knew exactly which directions for Sandy to go for her education. One hour after their meeting Sandy asked Joe out for a date and since she was the type person who did not take no for an answer the two went out. Sandy continued taking classes and eventually became certified as a Firefighter 2‚ Driver-Operator‚ Aerial Operator‚ Emergency Medical Technician; Fire & Life Safety Educator. After obtaining her driver-operator certifications Sandy became a relief part-time driver for the city of Eden. She was the first female driver/operator for the city. While doing all this Sandy raised two children; Terra & Christian; and worked two jobs. Sandy loved her family first. In any conversation she would always talk about her kids.
Though only five foot-two inches tall‚ Sandy’s dream eventually became true and Sandy became the first career female firefighter for the town of Summerfield. This also made her the first career female in the Guilford County Fire System. Although she was very proud of her firsts she never bragged or boasted of them. She simply loved her job and wanted to do it to the best of her ability. Sandy made impacts on several lives throughout North Carolina. While attending several state schools to better serve her community she became affectionately known statewide as the little blond girl from Summrfield. She was active in the NC Fire & Life Safety Committee. All this time still finding time for her two children.
Sandy always looked to better herself and in 2001 moved to Lewisville Fire Department in Forsyth County as an Engineer (Another first). As part of her employment she had to move within six miles of the fire station. This put her several miles from her family and home. Eventually she came back to Colfax Fire Department (their first career female) in Guilford County and moved back to Eden. In January of 2002 Sandy wanted more she asked Joe to marry her and of course he said yes. The two were married May 4‚ 2002. Sandy obtained her fire instructor certification. In the Spring of 2002 budget cuts to the Colfax FD resulted in several cutbacks that eventually led to Sandy being laid-off in April. This did not get her down as she took this opportunity to establish her new home. Sandy also wanted to maintain her certifications and eventually became one of the first part-time daytime firefighters for the city of Eden. She also became the first reserve firefighter for Fire District #13. Finally feeling a yearning to get back n the career fire service Sandy applied for and got hired at McLeansville Fire Department in Guilford County. As their first career female Sandy was 100 happy in all aspects of her life. Her home‚ her family and her career all meant so much to her.
Then on September 23‚ 2002 at 11:07 another first. Sandy became the first female firefighter in Guilford County to die in the line of duty. Sandy was enroute between stations for pump maintenance when the pumper tanker she was operating ran off the road and overturned. Several veteran firefighters quickly told the media to not think experience was a factor‚ as Sandy was known throughout the Guilford County as one of the best Fire Equipment Operators.
Approximately five hundred firefighters from across North Carolina and Virginia attended her funeral.
Many could not believe the ‘little blond girl’ was gone.
Sandy is survived by her husband‚ Joe Powell; a daughter‚ Terra Billings; a son‚ Christian Billings; a brother‚ Chuck Myers; and a stepson‚ Joseph Powell.
The McLeansville Fire Department has established a scholarship fund in memory of Sandy.
In addition‚ the North Carolina Breathing Equipment & Firefighter Survival School of which Sandy was a 2001 graduate has named their top award the ‘Sandy Powell Memorial’ award. Several fire departments throughout Guilford County have elected to place decals in memory of Sandy on their apparatus and on their firefighter helmets. Sandy is now a true guardian angel to all of us.
Rest In Peace Sister. You are loved and remembered.– Sam Trachet