A blue line of firefighters stretched almost the length of the driveway at a borrowed Carroll County church today, their honor guard flags snapping in a harsh wind as a hearse approached, bearing the body of Lt. John N. Plummer, a Baltimore firefighter who died in the line of duty.
A bagpiper struck up a dirge as pallbearers carried the casket into Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Manchester for funeral services that brought firefighters from Plummer's own Engine Company 23 in Baltimore as well as delegations from surrounding counties, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Plummer, who was 47, had been a firefighter since 1968. He died Sunday of a heart attack while carrying a hose into a burning rowhouse in the 800 block of W. Lombard St.
A Company 23 fire engine draped in black ribbon was parked opposite the church door.
"Men that die in the line of duty, people come from all over," said Lt. George LeGrand, one of Plummer's comrades in the company. "It's somewhat of an international tradition."
Lt. David Heavel, of the city Fire Department's Truck 1, said Plummer would advance with the hose closer to a blaze than anyone else.
"If John wouldn't go any farther, no one in their right mind would even try," Heavel said. "He never bailed out. He seldom backed out."
In a eulogy, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke called Plummer "a brave and gallant man, a real hero in our community."
Plummer was a parishioner at St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester, but St. Bartholomew's pastor, the Rev. Martin Demek, said he was celebrating the funeral mass at Immanuel Lutheran because it was larger and could accommodate the crowd that he estimated at 500 people.
Demek eulogized Plummer as a man willing to sacrifice his life for others. He said, "John has been handed over to the Lord, whose heart is not harsh."