The American flag hung across Highway 82 East Thursday morning between two Tifton fire trucks as firemen with the Tifton-Tift County Fire Department lined the street and saluted to honor and show their support for Waycross Fire Department Lt. Jeff Little, who died Sunday morning in the line of duty.
The Georgia State Patrol escorted the funeral procession from Waycross to the Georgia/Alabama line in Haralson County. As the flag waved in the cool breeze, the procession made its way through Tifton, with officers from the Tifton Police Department and Tift County Sheriff’s Office joining the group to help direct them through town. The route included Cordele, Perry, Macon, Forsyth, McDonough, Douglasville, Bremen and Tallapoosa.
Some motorists stopped and got out of their vehicles to watch. A few truckers honked their horns as they passed through prior to the procession’s arrival.
Standing back, watching the procession, a Waycross firefighter’s wife said they’re amazed by Tifton’s support.
Fire Chief Mike Coleman, he commented, “We are a brotherhood, and this is what we do for each other.”
He said his department immediately put together a plan when learning of the procession coming through Tifton. He said his men did an outstanding job.
Coleman released the following statement Thursday: “On behalf of the Tifton-Tift County Fire Department, I wish to reiterate our heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of Lt. Jeff Little of the Waycross Fire Department in the wake of his tragic passing. In addition, our thoughts and prayers continue for Chief David Eddins and members of the Waycross Fire Department.
“Today, we honored a fallen brother as he passed through Tifton in route to his final resting place in Alabama. There are many traditions in the fire service, but none more important than paying homage and tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. Our mission today was to do his memory justice in a way befitting a fallen hero. I sincerely hope our efforts were pleasing to those who loved him and worked with him.
“I want to express my sincere appreciation to all members of our department who were able to participate in a final salute to Lt. Little. Their show of respect was nothing less than exemplary. I want to give a special thanks to Capt. Ricky Norton, EVT Joey Hester, Lt. Danny Wallace, Capt. Bobby Bennett, Volunteer Chief Paul Mcgahee and Volunteer Lt. Chuck Mailloux. Additionally, I want to thank the Tift County Sheriff’s Department, Police Chief Buddy Dowdy, TPD Lt. Adam Story and officers under his command, without whom we could not have honored Lt. Little appropriately.”
According to an article by First Coast News, Little, 50, died while battling a fire in a vacant home in the 1000 block of Isabella Street in Waycross Sunday morning. Police believed the fire was started by two men. FCN reported that Ronnie Cranford, 23, and Zachery Thompson, 17, both of Waycross, have been charged with arson and murder in relation to Little’s death.
A memorial service for Little was held Wednesday. FCN reported that hundreds of people, including firefighters, attended. Little will be taken back home to Alabama for his final funeral. He leaves behind a large family, including his wife, a son, brothers and his parents.
The Waycross Fire Department posted the following statement on their Facebook page following the death of their comrade: “The city of Waycross Fire Department is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of David Jeff Little on Sunday, Dec. 15, while working a structure fire in Waycross. According to Chief Eddins, Jeff’s loss hits deep into the heart and soul of this community and fire department.”
To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.