Indianapolis fire chief stepping down with illness

Indianapolis Fire Department Chief Brian Sanford plans to step down from his position this summer due to illness, the Department of Public Safety said Wednesday morning.

Sanford, who has led the department since 2008, will remain in the position until a replacement can be found.

The 57-year-old Sanford told The Indianapolis Star that he is battling Lou Gehrig's disease. The disease will eventually reach the point where he can't lead firefighters like he believes a chief should, Sanford said. The disease, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, attacks the cells that control muscle movements.

After a successor is found, Sanford will shift to a new job as chief of staff to city Public Safety Director Troy Riggs.

Riggs said he was disappointed when Sanford decided it was time to resign as fire chief, but he's glad the chief will continue with the public safety agency.

The search for a new chief will begin immediately, Riggs said.

Sanford began his fire service career with the Warren Township Fire Department 30 years ago. He served as Warren township fire chief for eight years and was named IFD chief shortly after a merger of the departments.

“Chief Sanford dedicated 30 years of his life to protecting the people of this great city," Mayor Greg Ballard said in aprepared statement. "His strong leadership, calm demeanor, and constant focus on the best interests of his fellow firefighters will carry on at IFD for years to come. I am pleased the people of Indianapolis will continue to benefit from Sanford’s wisdom and expertise as chief of staff in the Department of Public Safety.”

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