'Ultimate Sacrifice' honored at firefighters memorial

Posted: Monday, September 27, 2010

"It is a pity that we gather each fall to honor those who have given their lives in the line of duty," Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho said. "But it is also an opportunity to thank those of you who are now in that service and have dedicated your lives to it."

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

Botelho was addressing the crowd attending Sunday's Capital City Fire and Rescue Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial in Centennial Hall.

"There are never former firefighters," Botelho said. "But there are those who are no longer on the line and we want to thank them as well."

Botelho spoke after a welcoming by Chief Richard Etheridge and the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner by Siara Kelly, the daughter of a firefighter. Firefighter Ziad Alkak followed by reading a poem.

Botelho said the attractions to becoming a firefighter for small boys include the red trucks, fire hoses spraying water, and rescuing damsels in distress.

"But what is shielded from a young boy's eyes is the tedium of having to be constantly ready," Botelho said. "The drill after drill, false alarms, paperwork, day in and day out, punctuated by real fire and rescue events ... you do this all for us, when we need you, you will be there. On behalf of your friends, your neighbors, and your community, we thank you for your service and remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice."

The second keynote speaker was Public Safety Commissioner Joseph A. Masters.

"In 2009 Alaskans made nearly 56,000 calls upon fire services statewide," Masters said. "When someone makes a 911 call they see the danger but not the second thought, or realization, that the same level of danger awaits those that respond like volunteers and career firefighters. Firefighters dedicate their lives to preventing tragedy, yet sometimes they become the tragedy, and we remember them here today ..."

The names of firefighters who died in 2009, both nationwide and in Alaska, were read and were followed by the Firefighter's Prayer. CCFR Captain Todd Cameron sounded the Last Alarm, ringing the fireman's bell three sets of three times.

"This gives us an opportunity to stop and reflect on the big picture," Chief Richard Etheridge said. "This gives us a day to stop and think about those folks we have lost or who have retired or what has happened in the past, to remember them and honor them. And it gives us the opportunity to think about ourselves and our families and how to make things safer ... as a fire chief it reinvigorates my dedication to make things as safe as possible."

• Contact Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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