By Mike Watiker
This event, in its 30th year, is a gathering of KFD current and former firefighters, members of local government, and other friends and family. The first memorial was held in 1985 on the department’s 100th anniversary.
It seems fitting for this event to be held in October, Fire Prevention Month. The moment was given added poignancy in the wake of the line-of-duty deaths (LODDs) this week of two Kansas City (MO) firefighters who were killed while operating at a working fire when there was a partial building collapse.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there have been 70 firefighter fatalities this year alone. Fortunately, KFD has not lost a member in over 15 years.
The ceremony was held at the Fallen Firefighter Memorial Park in front of KFD’s headquarters, Station 1. This monument was erected almost 100 years ago to remember the 24 KFD firefighters who have died in the line of duty since 1885.
It was a somber event as KFD Chief Stan Sharp read the names of the firefighters who had answered their “last alarm.”
Chief Sharp and Knoxville City Mayor Madeline Rogero discussed not only the risks of serving but the sacrifice firefighters make, as well as the potential loss families face every time their loved ones report for duty. Officials reflected on the missed holidays, a soccer game, a birthday. They underscored the fact that one-third of a firefighter’s career is spent away from home with their work family.
It is often asked what kind of person runs towards danger when everyone else is running in the opposite direction. Gone but not forgotten, these men and women are definitely a very special breed.
KFD provides a wide range of fire, rescue, and medical services to the citizens of Knoxville, Tennessee. The agency has 20 firehouses strategically located throughout the city with standard apparatus as well as a fireboat, but also many specialized units to handle such disciplines as hazmat, water rescue, and other technical rescue needs. It is a career department whose members are represented by IAFF Local 65.
Follow Mike Watiker on Twitter at @mwatiker.
MORE MIKE WATIKER