Fairfield fire chief Kevin Sutton was killed in a car accident on Interstate 59 on the afternoon of Sunday, April 30. The wreck took place after an 18-wheeler crossed the median and struck Sutton’s SUV along with another car, Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service Battalion Chief Decimus Williamson told AL.com. Sutton, 54, was pronounced dead on the scene; his wife, Phyllis Sutton, is in stable condition; as of Monday afternoon, their daughter, Tabitha Normal, was reported as being in critical condition.
Though not a native of Fairfield — he lived in Roebuck — Sutton had been with the city’s fire department since 1994; he’d served as chief for 13 years. After the cash-strapped city’s financial crisis led to major city employee cutbacks, Sutton started a GoFundMe page to raise money for some of the city’s laid-off workers.
When he spoke to Weld last year, Sutton steered firmly clear of city politics, but was outspoken about his commitment to his department. “I tell my guys, ‘My job is to hire you the first day and make sure you get home retired — and in between, make sure you have a good work environment,’” he said. “If I’ve got to fight to that end, I’ll go to city hall and fight… That’s the agreement I have with my guys.”
Though he sometimes found himself bemused by the infighting that often saw Fairfield’s government on the edge of collapse, Sutton expressed a deep affection for the city’s people. “It has great citizens,” he said, recounting an anecdote when, during an interview on television news, he remarked that his firefighters would remain active even “if they’ve got to buy their own toilet paper.”
“The next day, citizens were showing up, like, ‘Guys, don’t you have need for anything,’” Sutton said, laughing. “I’ve got closets full of toilet paper. It’s just a great community.”