Firefighters from across Idaho gathered on Friday, September 6 to remember and honor their fallen comrades at the annual Idaho Fallen Firefighters Memorial Ceremony. Both the ceremony and its venue, the Idaho Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park, were steeped in time-honored tradition, a moving tribute to the men and women who sacrificed everything to protect their communities.
The ceremony opened to the rousing call of pipes and drums. The Boise Fire Department Pipe & Drum Band and a statewide honor guard filed down the greenway to raise the flags of country, state, and community, marching past a wall of names. Speakers took the podium to honor and reflect upon the legacy of those names.
“They were the epitome of humility when it came to doing the job they did,” said Boise Fire Department Chief Dennis Doan. “Never wanting to bring the spotlight of attention on themselves for their work protecting others.”
It is only fitting, then, that they be honored and remembered for their selfless acts of courage. At the center of the plaza stands a life-size bronze statue of three firefighters, one fallen in the line of duty. His brothers support and mourn him. It serves as a moving representation of the unique bond shared among the fire community, and their incredible commitment and sacrifice.
A Legacy of Tradition
Traditions are also shared among the fire community, and several were observed in the course of the ceremony. Pipes and drums, preceded by the “ringing of the bell,” concluded the ceremony in respectful remembrance. Two bells were rung three times for each name that was read, signalling honor to those who had fallen in the line of duty. Members of the Honor Guard laid roses at the foot of the statue for each of the fallen.
But there are other traditions, as Coeur d’Alene Fire Department Chief Kenny Gabriel pointed out, that are better left in the past. “In my career I’ve seen huge changes…the days where wearing a breathing apparatus was a show of weakness,” he said in a call for cultivating a “culture of safety” in the fire industry. Cancer, heart disease, roadway incidents, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have claimed far too many lives, and there are more steps, he urged the community, that can be taken to prevent them.
Indeed, PTSD and suicide are both major threats facing first responders. A Ruderman Family Foundation study found that suicides were more common among firefighters and police officers in 2017 than line-of-duty deaths. It is an issue that the nation’s fire community has been increasing their efforts to tackle by providing resources for their comrades struggling with mental health. A number of those resources are listed below, including mental health and suicide prevention hotlines.
Supporting Idaho Firefighters
Support for the fire community continues to be an important part of local and statewide organizations. Boise Mayor Dave Bieter recounted the city’s efforts in securing a riverside location for the Idaho Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park eleven years ago, and extended the city’s support to the Boise Fire Training Facility. “Whatever we can do in the city of Boise to help you,” he said, “please don’t hesitate to call.”
The Idaho Fallen Firefighters Foundation is another key supporter of the state’s firefighters. Their joint effort with the city of Boise founded the Idaho Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park in 2008. Tyler Roundtree, speaking at this park more than a decade later, summed up the foundation’s mission: “We believe it is our goal to touch the hearts of all family members, supporting you today, and providing you the recognition you all deserve.”
Today the Idaho Fallen Firefighters Foundation continues their mission to honor the lives of firefighters who have died in the line of duty, provide support for their families, and promote the health and safety of Idaho firefighters. The organization holds community events to fund these efforts, including the annual Boise Mustache Memorial Ride.
At Boise Mobile Equipment, it is the unparalleled devotion and camaraderie of the fire community that inspires us to build safe and reliable fire apparatus. We are proud to serve this industry of heroes in our state and across the nation.
Firefighter Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Resources
First Responder Crisis Support Helpline: 1-844-550-HERO (4376)
PTSD & Mental Health Hotline for IAFF Members: 866-965-3074
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255