Fire and Rescue Department honors those who have lost lives

·4 min read

Jun. 11—Doug Tracy drove all the way from Columbus to attend the annual Toledo Fire and Rescue Department Memorial Service Thursday.

Related to two Toledo firefighters killed in the line of duty, he considered himself fortunate to be able to attend, only wishing that his two nephews, who are firefighters in Los Angeles, could also be there.

"That's because firefighters have a brotherhood like no other," he said — minutes before the attending Toledo firefighters and police officers saluted fallen comrades to the sounds of bagpipes.

"This is one of the most moving ceremonies that I can think of," Mr. Tracy said. "These people need to be honored.... And not just [the fallen], but, in general, any of these firefighters."

Mr. Tracy is the third great-grandson on the paternal side of two Toledo firefighters lost in the line of duty — Capt. George S. Fraser, who died Sept. 8, 1887 after falling from a hose tower at Fire Station 3, and Capt. James Fraser, who died in January, 1894 at the site of the King-Quale Grain Elevator fire, with his body never found. They were first recognized by the department in 2018 and 2017 respectively.

"The sacrifices [firefighters] make are just off the charts. And it's not enough to honor them once. They need to be remembered year after year after year," Mr. Tracy said.

Toledo Fire Chief Brian Byrd said that's exactly right.

"Our people, who serve every day in their uniform, they know you are here," he said to an audience of about 150. "And that's their motivation for working. It's the support of their community."

Toledo firefighters Capt. Harry Kuhrt, Lt. William Rooney, and Lt. Peter McGrane — who died while fighting Toledo fires April 22, 1950, Aug. 12, 1951, and Jan. 9, 1970 respectively — were officially honored during an annual memorial service for the first time Thursday.

Their names were added last year to the list of Toledo firefighters who died in the line of duty, but they did not get to be officially honored then because the department's memorial service last year was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The list of Toledo firefighters lost in the line of duty currently has 63 honorees. Additionally the department annually honors six firefighters killed during military service in World War II: George Lutife, Louis Ziebar, Raymond Romeos, Eugene McHugh, Ralph Weisenberg, and Nicholas Seybold.

Last year was the first time the event, which commemorates the anniversary of the Anthony Wayne Trail Fire, was canceled.

Guest speaker Matt Sapara, a Mercy Health vice president, thanked city firefighters for helping area medical-care providers fight the pandemic.

"I've had a great benefit of having a front-row seat [watching] how the Toledo fire department helped lead this community through the worst epidemic of our life times," Mr. Sapara said.

"Whether it was addressing the distribution of the vaccines to the underserved members of our community or being innovative in protecting themselves so they could continue to serve the residents of Toledo, we could always count on the fire department to provide the leadership that we needed to overcome any issue."

The Thursday ceremony also traditionally featured a retirees' last alarm — a tribute to department retirees who died in the previous year — to honor 19 people who died in 2020.

Additionally, a commemorative video was streamed on the department's social-media outlets to honor those who have died in the line of duty.

The ceremony was held at the department's 545 N. Huron St. headquarters, across the street from Toledo Firefighters Memorial in Chub DeWolfe Park. The memorial, dedicated June 10, 1963, was constructed in remembrance of the Trail fire, which occurred when a wrecked gasoline tank truck exploded and killed four firefighters while injuring six more and 81 civilians.

Attending dignitaries included Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, who said in part that "the perils that firefighters face don't begin and end at the event like the Trail fire and that can tragically take lives.

"The mere act of being a firefighter opens him and her to a lifetime of challenges that the average citizen doesn't face," Mayor Kapszukiewicz said, noting that firefighters have shorter-than-average life expectancies because of professional health risks.

"They know what they signed up for," he said. "... And yet they still show up. They still train and stand in long lines to apply to be a firefighter. It is that spirit and tenacity, and, yes, love, that we recognize on days like today."

First Published June 10, 2021, 7:28pm

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