Photo of the Week: Pa. fire officials 'right a wrong,' honor fallen FF nearly 40 years later
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This week's Photo of the Week shows Juan "Scooter" Blakely, a photographer for the Erie (Pa.) Bureau of Fire and son of fallen Erie Firefighter Willie Blakely, accepting a posthumous Medal of Honor on behalf of his father.
Firefighter Willie Blakely, who became the bureau's first Black firefighter in 1969, died in 1982 at the age of 48 from a cerebral hemorrhage believed to be caused by a head injury suffered on the job. However, Blakely's death was never recognized as a line-of-duty death, until now.
Both the Erie Bureau of Fire and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) announced that Blakely's sacrifice would be recognized with the Medal of Honor and the adding of his name to the IAFF Fallen Firefighter Memorial in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"This was a long time in coming, and I want to thank Chief Fire Inspector Darren Hart for taking the initiative to right a wrong, President of Firefighters Local 293 Gregg Wells for bringing it to the attention of the International Association of Fire Fighters, and to Chief Joe Walko, Deputy Chief Len Trott, and others who provided their support and encouragement to ensure that Willie would be appropriately recognized for his sacrifice," Erie Mayor Joe Schember said in a statement.
The Medal of Honor was presented to Juan Blakely at the Erie-Crawford Central Labor Council Workers' Memorial Day ceremony on April 28.