A veteran Memphis firefighter collapsed and died just after battling a house fire in the Westwood area of South Memphis late Saturday night.
Around 11:45 p.m., Lt. Rodney Eddins and his crew were looking for hot spots inside the small home in the 4500 block of Marigold Lane when he collapsed. His fellow firefighters carried him out and began CPR on the home ’s front lawn, witnesses said. An ambulance then took Eddins to Methodist South Hospital, but doctors could not resuscitate him.
Eddins was 57 and a 30-year veteran of the Memphis Fire Department. He leaves behind a wife and an adult daughter.
“I sat with his sister this morning, and she said all he wanted to be was a firefighter,” MFD Director Gina Sweat said at a news conference Sunday afternoon. “The hearts of the men and women in this department are heavy.”
Eddins worked at Fire Station 37 on Weaver Road, a station that was quiet and somber Sunday afternoon. Lt. Larry Boyce remembered Eddins as friendly and outgoing.
“He was a people person. Everyone liked him,” said Boyce, who joined MFD the same year as Eddins. “He loved making everyone feel comfortable, loved talking to people.”
Erica McFarland and her family live in the home that caught fire but were staying elsewhere Saturday night for a mini-vacation, her mother, Vickie McFarland, said. When the fire began, Vickie, who lives nearby with her
husband Ray, rushed over to the scene. That’s when she saw firefighters carry Eddins out.
“One of the firemen ran out and said something, and that’s when they all went in. They carried him out,” she said. “At first they said he was breathing on his own. Then all of a sudden they ran to the truck to get some equipment. They were doing chest compressions.”
Added Ray McFarland: “When someone loses their life trying to help you, you feel regret.”
Mayor Jim Strickland expressed his condolences in a statement: “Melyne and I were saddened to learn of the passing of Lt. Rodney Eddins, a 30-year veteran of the Memphis Fire Department. We send our deepest condolences to the Eddins family and the Memphis Fire family at this time.”
MFD spokesman Lt. Wayne Cooke said a portable fan sparked the fire.
Vickie McFarland said the home wasn’t a total loss, and that the family hopes to rebuild.
It’s possible that, depending on the cause of death, the Eddins family will receive a line-of-duty death benefit, Sweat said. If it’s determined that the fire led to Eddins’ death, that benefit ranges from $100,000 to $350,000, depending on length of service.
If this is determined to be a line-of-duty death, it would be the first since Oct. 24, 2005, when Lt. Wendell Jeffery died while on duty at a station. Earlier that year, on April 20, 2005, MFD Driver David O’Conner suffered a cerebral aneurysm while responding to a fire, and later died. Both were ruled line-of-duty deaths, Sweat said.
The previous two firefighters who died in a blaze were Trent Kirk and Charles Zachary, both killed in an arson fire at the Frayser Family Dollar on June 15, 2003.