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Funeral service honors life and legacy of fallen firefighter James Muller

Fire personnel from more than 75 departments across the U.S. came to Irmo for the procession and funeral to honor fallen firefighter James Michael Muller.

IRMO, S.C. — Members of the firefighting community came from across the country to honor Irmo firefighter James Muller, who lost his life in the line of duty on Friday. 

Fire personnel from more than 75 departments gathered at the Riverland Hills Baptist Church to pay respects.

The sanctuary overflowed with attendees Wednesday as more than 2,000 people came to honor the firefighter who died will battling an apartment fire. 

"When someone has what we call a line of duty death, firefighters come from all over the country to pay their respects, to pay their honor for those that have gone on before us," Chief Brian Cunningham, a firefighter from Charlotte, explains.

Cunningham and retired firefighter David Thornberg came from Charlotte as a part of the pipe band to play bagpipes and drums during the procession. They say a tragedy like this affects everyone.

"When it happens, it hurts everybody. When we lose one, especially doing what they love and doing they job, people come by and play their respects," Cunningham explains.

Fire personnel came from Ohio, New York, Maryland, Florida and all across the Midlands to honor the one of their fallen brothers. Children of friends, like 10-year-old Brooks Mixson, also showed up to celebrate the man he looked up to.

"I chose to wear this [firefighters uniform] because he was an amazing firefighter and nothing stopped him and he was an amazing firefighter and nothing stopped him and he was an amazing guy all around and I'm gonna miss him," Mixson says about Muller.

Mixson and the other attendees listened as people shared memories of muller, his passion for the job, his love for his family and for his faith — a message Assistant Chief of Operations Sloane Valentino with Irmo Fire Department says was impactful.

"I can tell you that all the firefighters here could not sit down and describe to you how that service was. There were parts of it that were painful, parts of it that were beautiful, parts of it that touched us, and parts of it where we bawled our eyes out," Valentino shares. "I was in a dark place. I have been since Friday night when I was at the hospital with J. So I don't know how much of it I paid attention to. There was part of th service I was paying attention to, and part of the ringing in my ears, and part of the soundtrack in my head of who J was and what he meant to us."

Valentino says it’s expected for Irmo Fire crews to get back to work on Saturday. For the time being, Valentino says other crews from around the Midlands have stepped up to help out while the department mourns.

"I have a million ways to remember James. I have not been able to distill that down to one," Valentino explains. "James left everything better than he found it and that is the best way I have now to sum up who he was."

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