INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Indianapolis Fire Chief Brian Sanford has died after battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for five years.
Sanford, 59, was admitted to IU Methodist Hospital early Saturday morning with difficulty breathing. IFD Battalion Chief Rita Reith said he passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, just after 3 p.m. Monday.
Sanford was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, just three years into his stint as chief. In 2014, he announced he would leave the department, due to the progression of the disease. Soon after, he spoke with WFYI's Sam Klemet about his 30-year career, including how it all began.
Becoming a firefighter wasn’t exactly a calling for Sanford. He grew up on a dairy farm and drove a school bus early in his career.
But, one day a family friend who worked for the Warren Township Fire Department approached him about joining. Sanford agreed to look into the profession and the rest is history.
"I fell in love with it," he said. "Once I got exposed to it, it became what I wanted to do and really all I wanted to do."
A decades-long career followed. Sanford rose through the ranks of the township department, serving eight years as chief. Warren Township's fire services merged with IFD in 2007, and not long after that Sanford was tapped to replace Chief Jim Greeson, who moved on to become State Fire Marshall.
On August 11, 2014, Sanford ceremonially passed over an axe, fire helmet, and pin symbolizing the change of command to current IFD Chief Ernest Malone.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Malone offered his condolences to the Sanford family.
“Brian was an excellent fire chief, but he was an even better man," Malone said in the statement. "The relationships he forged and the people he touched throughout his time in the fire service will forever be remembered as he continues to watch over us each and every day. All of us are better for knowing him – I know I am.”
Sanford is survived by his wife of 39 years, Diane; three sons, Ryan, Mike and Mark; and eight grandchildren.
Information about services is not yet available.