Remembering our fallen firefighters

The annual memorial service should remind us to re-commit to preventing line-of-duty deaths

Editor’s Note:

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel pauses to reflect on those brave firefighters who lost their lives last year and encourages us to focus on preventing future deaths.

Once again this year I attended the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service in Emmitsburg, Md.

Despite the inclement weather moving the ceremony indoors to Mount St. Mary's College, it was, as usual, a tremendously poignant event made possible by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and legions of volunteers from all around the United States.

Every year I read the stories about our fallen brothers and sisters and it's amazing how different their backgrounds and experiences are, yet they — and their surviving families and departments — are all bound together by their courage, commitment and ultimately their sacrifice.

Beyond the important purpose of honoring our fallen comrades and helping their survivors begin the healing process, this annual memorial service offers all of us the opportunity to reflect on our own service. Hopefully, we re-commit to preventing future line-of-duty deaths and injuries — not just through our own individual behaviors, but through looking out for our companies, units, teams and departments.

We are making progress; the number of firefighters honored each year has declined. But when you see their families, their partners, their children and their brother and sister firefighters walk up to accept the folded flags — it's a reminder that every tragic loss has far-reaching implications beyond those directly involved.

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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