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MailTribune.com
  • Firefighter's drive, compassion remembered

    Tyler Wurzell memorial service brings together community, emergency servies personnel
  • First responders mourned a brother Saturday who was looking ahead to a promising career, while former schoolmates considered the prospects of a life suddenly taken.
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  • First responders mourned a brother Saturday who was looking ahead to a promising career, while former schoolmates considered the prospects of a life suddenly taken.
    About 800 emergency services professionals, family, friends and community members bid farewell to 23-year-old Rural/Metro Fire Department engineer Tyler Wurzell at Parkway Christian Center in Grants Pass. Wurzell died in an auto accident Dec. 29.
    Associates and loved ones marveled at Wurzell's demeanor, skill and leadership as he excelled in life-and-death situations.
    "He had a certain shine about him," said Erick Sturges, a Josephine County deputy who knew Wurzell since his middle-school years.
    "Anything he set out to do, he would complete it. He was getting his fire-science degree at Rogue Community College when I was getting my criminal-justice degree. He made sure his homework was perfect; he wouldn't settle for anything but excellence."
    Shortly after graduating from Grants Pass High School, Wurzell became a part-time firefighter at the age of 18 and was named Station 2 rookie of the year in 2007. During his down time, he performed shifts with American Medical Response service.
    By the age of 22, Wurzell was supervisor at Rural/Metro's Merlin station and became the agency's youngest-ever engineer. He was twice named employee of the month and received four outstanding performance citations.
    "The greatest impact on his co-workers was his electric personality," said Mark Shay of the Rural/Metro Fire Department.
    He praised Wurzell for his honesty, integrity, compassion and being a man of his word.
    "He embodied all that is good about the American fire services," Shafer said. "Tyler had an uncanny ability to control the scene and care for his patients."
    Wurzell's fiancee, Faith Tuttle, said her son relished the idea of the firefighter becoming his stepfather because he liked Wurzell's chocolate lab, Bo.
    She recollected how the two met while Wurzell was on a call that took him to the hospital where she worked.
    Tuttle read from an essay Wurzell wrote for class in which he noted success was not about how much money was in the savings account but how well you could take care of a family.
    Firefighters presented family members, including his parents, Jim and Deanna Wurzell, with his badges, helmets and an American flag.
    "If we're being truthful," said chaplain Fred Saada, "we don't understand why someone full of life and love is no longer with us — 1 Peter 1:24 tells us flesh like grass withers. We all have an appointed time, sooner or later. We don't know, but God has appointed the time."
    Saada eulogized the firefighter as one who loved to talk to people and served others.
    "He was motivated and had a huge heart," the chaplain said. "It showed in the way he treated people."
    The service concluded with three sets of five rings of a fire bell, followed by all of the firefighters' pagers being turned on for Wurzell's final call to duty.
    "Engineer Tyler Wurzell," the dispatcher called three times.
    "All units. Roll was taken and Tyler Wurzell failed to answer. May the sun shine upon your past, may the wind always be at your back and may the Lord hold you in the palm of his hand until we meet again."
    In the hallway outside, Josephine County deputy JD Haer, who also knew Wurzell since middle school, exchanged hugs and greetings with youthful mourners.
    "In this profession, (death) is always in the back of your mind," Haer said. "But when you are put in the position of a fellow brother passing away, you realize there is nothing like it until it happens. I'm not taking things for granted, like I may have in the past. It makes me realize how short our time on earth is. It's eye-opening."
    Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.
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