Hundreds remember a firefighter who lost her battle to cancer


Hundreds turned out to celebrate the life of one of Fresno’s finest.

Sandi Kieffert-Johanns, 51, was a trailblazer in the Central Valley. 

She became the first woman firefighter in the City of Sanger back in 1998.

We spoke with her best friend, Jennifer Valeri, who said Sandi was the epitome of a courageous hero and will be missed after her life was cut short by cancer.

“She just had compassion and love for other people,” Valeri said.

Several Fresno Fire engines parked outside of peoples church, paying tribute to their sister in uniform of 17 years. 

“Sandi was a true true spirit of the Fresno fire department,” said Fire Chief Kerri Donis of the Fresno Fire Department.

Valeri recalled the strength of her best friend.

“I hear stories of her going into buildings and carrying two unconscious children out, one in each arm and she’s not a big girl and resuscitating them,” she said.

While Sandi braved the danger of fires, it was cancer that would be her ultimate battle.

“She never really complained during the whole thing and she went through so much,” Valeri said.

Fire officials said Sandi is the third fire fighter to pass away from the disease in the last four months.

“Our fire fighters are exposed to so many things each and every day on scene when they fight fire, it’s a horrific disease,” Donis said.

As hearts are heavy for the loss of the beloved, wife, mother, friend and fire fighter, Valeri said they will keep her courageous spirit alive.

“We will pay forward our Sandi-ness into the world,” she expressed.

Sandi leaves behind her husband and two children, ages 18 and 13 years old.

The family has asked if anyone would like to help with cancer research, the information below is where you can donate.

Donations in lieu of flowers:

By mail:  Please have checks made payable to Stanford University and sent to:

                Stanford University

                Development Services

                P.O. Box 20466

                Stanford, CA  94309-0466                 

                •Online at:

NOTE:  In both cases, please include the following:  “This gift is in memory of Sandra Johanns and should be used to support  carcinoid research under the direction of Dr. George Fisher in the School of Medicine at Stanford University”.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.