USA — More than 2,000 firefighters, emergency personnel, friends and family of James Saunders gathered today at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium for a memorial service honoring Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District firefighter James Saunders.
Saunders died Thursday at Mercy San Juan Hospital in Citrus Heights after suffering a heart attack while fighting a grass fire near Haggin Oaks Golf Course.
“James was truly the happiest man you had ever met. He would have done anything for anyone at anytime,” said Chris Walsh, a family friend of Saunders.
Sac Metro Fire’s board of directors knew Saunders left behind many friends and family from within and outside the firefighting community and needed a memorial facility that could accommodate many people.
“We worked with Saunders’ family to make them feel comfortable. We are all a community and a family and all wanted to come out and pay our respects to him,” Clark said.
D’Elman Clark, a Sac Metro director from Division 6, said Sac State’s stadium was the best venue because of its seating capacity.
“Sac State has always been a friendly place for us, especially to the emergency personnel. We’ve had many events like Pig Bowl here and we needed a venue that could hold a lot of people,” said firefighter John Carr. “Sac State reached out to us and we appreciate all of their help.”
Clark said all the guests could sit comfortably and the memorial was overall wonderful, dignified and well-organized.
“The memorial was top notch and was exactly what we hoped for and more,” Carr said. “It was a fitting tribute to a great person.”
Saunders is survived by his wife, Holly Jo Saunders; son Erik Hackett; daughter Rachel Hackett-Hernandez, his parents, three sisters, three grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.