Arundel firefighters dedicate memorial to those killed on job

April 10, 2000|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Fire Chief Roger C. Simonds Sr. said yesterday that he hopes the county will have no other fallen heroes as he dedicated a memorial for firefighters who have died in the line of duty.

"It was important that we remember those who have given their lives. But I hope we never have to put another name in there," said Simonds, standing in front of a glass and wood display case honoring 18 county firefighters.

The memorial at the entrance of county fire headquarters in Millersville contains information about each of the fallen firefighters dating to 1910, when the first Annapolis volunteer firefighter was killed.

In addition to the firefighters' names and stations, circumstances of their deaths and their badges, the memorial contains the names of all U.S. firefighters who have been killed in the line of duty this year. That list will be updated regularly.

"This is reflective of our heritage," fire Battalion Chief John M. Scholz said. "And it helps us learn from things that have happened in the past."

Until yesterday, the department had only a plaque at its headquarters to commemorate members who have died fighting fires.

Simonds said the memorial is something he has envisioned for 30 years. When he became chief about a year ago, the tribute become a priority.

The project was also important to firefighter Timothy Runkles, a member of the department's honor guard. "The plaque had been there since 1970," he said. "It needed to be modernized."

Runkles and volunteers discovered while researching the list of fallen firefighters that two had been omitted from the earlier plaque.

Runkles helped locate surviving relatives of the fallen firefighters so that they could be invited to the unveiling.

"It was a proud day," said Sandy Chambers, the widow of William R. Chambers, who was killed at age 48 while battling a fire in November 1996. "It brought back a lot of memories."

Chambers, one of her two daughters and her grandson attended the service, as did Reed Raynor, son of Chief Edwin Raynor who was killed in May 1986, and dozens of other survivors.

The memorial service -- on the 30th anniversary of the death of the county's first career firefighter John F. Balcer -- will become an annual event, Simonds said.

Plans are under way for an outdoor memorial and a path leading to it from the new display case built by firefighter Richard Gorzo, Simonds said.

"We need something for the public to see the sacrifices that firefighters have made," the chief said.

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