Baltimore Co. firehouse remembers one of its own Volunteer died in 1990 accident

November 02, 1992|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

First Lt. Daniel J. Raskin has been memorialized at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, at the Baltimore County fire memorial in Towson and in the Congressional Record, but yesterday he belonged to his comrades.

Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Company members assembled with fire engines outside their Greenspring Avenue firehouse to honor the 31-year-old lieutenant, who died in July 1990 from head injuries suffered in an accident at a barn fire.

The memorial -- built as a labor of love by the Chestnut Ridge Volunteers -- features a flagpole and a bronze replica of a fire helmet on a base made of the same tan bricks as the firehouse, and stands surrounded by flowers and shrubs.

"We wanted to do something for Danny from the guys. It's all been done by the hands of the members," said William D. Newberrey III, 47, a former Chestnut Ridge captain and a career firefighter in Baltimore. "He was our first line-of-duty casualty; may he be our last."

"It took us a year before we could get ourselves to do it," said Mr. Newberrey, who was among Lieutenant Raskin's closest friends in the company. "There were the things at Emmitsburg and in Towson, but once things settled down we wanted something to relieve our feelings here."

According to an account at the time of the accident, Lieutenant Raskin was trying to get water to the burning barn, off Bonita Avenue, by connecting a hydrant to a pumper truck. He was turning an L-shaped iron fitting mounted on the front of the fire truck to clear a kink in the 6-inch diameter hose connecting the fitting to the hydrant.

The 50-pound fitting suddenly broke loose, whipped around and struck Lieutenant Raskin in the chest. His helmet flew off as the blow knocked him down and he smashed his head on the pavement. He remained comatose for a week before dying at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center July 16, 1990.

At yesterday's brief ceremony, under lowering skies and a raw wind, Rabbi Seymour Essrog, a county Fire Department chaplain, recited prayers including Kaddish for the dead.

"To sum up Danny," the rabbi said, "he cared; he cared enough to volunteer; he cared enough to help. He was, in Yiddish, a mensch, a quintessential human being."

U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, a longtime friend of the Raskin family, presented a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol. Harry Kakle, the fire company treasurer who presided yesterday, said it will fly around the clock and be illuminated at night.

The depth of the grief at the death of Danny Raskin -- in his professional life, a full-time investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board -- remains evident among his fellow firefighters.

"Dan was a good field investigator. He brought us things he learned on his regular job and he took things he learned here to the job," said First Lt. Marvin Fox, 51, who is a career lieutenant in the Baltimore County Fire Department.

County volunteers undergo the same training as career firefighters and Dan Raskin, like everyone else, made mistakes and got chewed out for them, Mr. Newberrey said. "But he never held a grudge and he learned from his mistakes."

"Danny was the best-liked person here," said Rob Bacharach, 36, a volunteer emergency medical technician and 19-year veteran of Chestnut Ridge.

Lieutenant Raskin's parents, Dr. Howard and Vivian Raskin, and his sister, Lisa Raskin, unveiled the memorial and Dr. Raskin, biting back tears, said, "This is the last occasion we are aware of for remembering Daniel . . . It's fitting we have come back to the Ridge."

Dr. Raskin has been an auxiliary physician for the city Fire Department for many years.

Mrs. Raskin said memorials for her son have also been established at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, at McDonogh School, the NTSB and in the planting of a forest in Israel in his name.

Also, she said, the family is establishing a foundation in his memory "dedicated to areas of safety measures" as she called for the establishment of national safety standards for firefighting equipment.

Mrs. Raskin said the responsibility must lie with the manufacturers of firefighting equipment. "They have the responsibility for putting out something that is properly designed and installed," she said. "We are trying to make sure that it never happens again."

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