Orange Rural Assistant Chief Mourned, Fund Set Up

Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018
Orange Rural Assistant Chief Mourned, Fund Set Up
Assistant Chief of Training and Safety Jeff Holden

Orange Rural Fire Department is mourning the loss of their assistant chief of training and safety and has opened a scholarship fund for the firefighter’s child.

Jeff Holden, 32, died Monday afternoon, Aug. 13, following the rescue of a construction worker trapped in a trench on West Ten Road in Efland.

“Chief Holden was a critical piece of our organization and will be forever missed,” Deputy Chief Mac Cabe said Tuesday.

Certified in trench rescue, Holden, Cabe and Battalion Chief Jonathan Capps responded to the call Monday in which the Efland Fire Department sought assistance from the Orange Rural and Mebane fire departments. Holden and Capps entered the trench and assisted in successfully rescuing the trapped worker.

Following the response, Holden participated in equipment maintenance at Orange Rural’s main station before heading to personally clean up. He was then found unresponsive at the station. Revival attempts by the crew on shift and by emergency workers who arrived on the scene were unsuccessful. The State Medical Examiner’s Office will rule on the cause of death.

Holden leaves behind a wife and child. The Hillsborough Firefighters Association has opened a share account at the Local Government Federal Credit Union for the family. Those who would like to donate can visit any State Employees Credit Union location to make a deposit into the “Scholarship Fund for Miller” account.

As Orange Rural Fire Department’s training and safety chief, Holden was responsible for hiring and training new firefighters. With certification from the Office of the State Fire Marshal, he was able to train firefighters in house and also trained firefighters from every department in Orange County.

“Chief Holden did so much with developing our firefighters, and he leaves a void that can never be filled,” Capps said.

Orange Rural Fire Chief Jeff Cabe recalled that in Holden’s first 30 days as an official firefighter in 2003, Holden assisted in calls for a train derailment, arson fire, commercial fire, fatal house fire, hazardous materials spill and multi-casualty vehicle pin-in.

“He was a firefighter’s firefighter,” Jeff Cabe said Tuesday. “Most of the things a firefighter would see by the end of career, he saw in his first 30 days.”

Since his start as a junior member of the Fire Department at the age of 16 in September 2001, Holden came to the aid of thousands of people, the chief said.

The junior firefighter program allowed youths to spend time at the station, learn about the job and help with maintenance and cleaning.

“When Jeff was a junior, he fell in love with it and decided when he graduated he wanted to do that,” the chief said.

He recalled that Holden moved to Wilmington and put himself through the New Hanover Fire Academy, spending almost a year earning his levels 1 and 2 firefighter certifications. The department hired him along with another junior member, who later left the department for a position in Durham County.

“Jeff stayed with us and moved through the ranks,” the chief said. “He held every position from junior firefighter to assistant chief.”

Holden became an assistant chief in June 2016. In addition to being a full-time employee with Orange Rural, he also volunteered at another fire department.

“It’s devastating,” Jeff Cabe said of the loss of Holden. “We sat down yesterday and tried to think about all he had done. He touched everything. We’re a small department; we depend on all our folks to do everything that needs to be done even if it doesn’t fit the job description. Jeff was one of those people. I can’t even fathom at this point what the impact is going to be on our operations.”

In addition to training firefighters, Holden also served as the department’s recruiter, talking to youths about doing fire service as a career. He served as the lead liaison for the Fire Safety and Technology Program at Orange High School, helping to teach, administer tests and perform evaluations for students in the program.

“He was an amazing young man, old beyond his years,” Jeff Cabe said.

Orange Rural Fire Department resumed full operations at 4 p.m. today. It ceased operations yesterday, and firefighters from surrounding departments stood by at Orange Rural’s three stations to respond to any calls without an interruption in response time. The Town of Hillsborough contracts with Orange Rural for fire service.