Foundation plans to honor state's fallen firefighters

Memorial to be built at site in Annapolis

January 28, 2002|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

The names of Maryland firefighters killed in the line of duty are etched in granite among many others at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg. Some counties have erected statues to honor their firefighters and paramedics. Other names rest on plaques in station houses from which the firefighters answered their last alarms.

But a group of firefighters and paramedics is proposing a more central and visible memorial of the state's heroes - this one at the State House complex in Annapolis.

"We've always felt there needed to be something at the state level to honor these people. It's been talked about and talked about for years," said J. Donald Mooney, president of the Maryland Fire-Rescue Services Foundation. "But we needed to do something now."

The state has granted an easement for the memorial to be built along Calvert Street near Bladen Street in front of the Louis L. Goldstein Treasury Building.

Bronze plaques etched with the names of the men and women who died in the line of duty will be mounted on a semicircular brick wall at the memorial site. The foundation also plans to commission a statue.

Since 1840, Mooney said, more than 300 firefighters and emergency medical technicians have been killed in the line of duty in Maryland.

Although those sacrifices are recognized at the national monument in Maryland, firefighters say, the memorials are not a duplicate effort.

"We're not in competition with each other," said Chief Ronald J. Siarnicki, executive director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. "We encourage states to do their own memorials. A lot of states have them, and a lot of jurisdictions have them."

In fact, Siarnicki, former chief of the Prince George's County Fire Department, is a member of the Maryland Fire-Rescue Services Foundation.

"You're talking about people who made the ultimate sacrifice. There needs to be assurance these individuals are never forgotten," Siarnicki said. "And there needs to be a way for the state and the community to remember them - to say thanks. For those who lost a loved one, it's part of the grieving process.

"They need to see their loved one's name memorialized and see a grateful state and nation for the sacrifice and commitment made," he said.

Some of the firefighters who first dreamed of creating a state memorial died before the project reached the planning stages, Mooney said.

It took several years for the group to gain nonprofit status and create a foundation. Time was also spent negotiating with the state Department of General Services for the land, Mooney said.

Organizers considered six possible sites in Annapolis, Mooney said, but the chosen site was always the foundation's first choice.

"We believe this is the gateway to Annapolis," he said.

Mooney said the foundation had expected some resistance to the plan from historical and preservation groups in Annapolis but instead received compliments and support for the project.

"We were amazed by the reception," said Mooney, who said the foundation plans to meet again with the groups as the architect's drawings are developed.

The remaining obstacle is finding the money for the $650,000 project when the state is facing major shortfalls in revenue.

"We didn't need to bang on doors to get permission to build the memorial," said Mooney, a member of the Lansdowne Volunteer Fire Company for more than 40 years. "We always had support from top state officials. But we may need to knock on doors for the money. We're going after anyone and everyone."

Part of the foundation's agreement with the state is that the memorial will be built within three years, which means the bulk of the funding must be raised now, Mooney said.

As incentive, Mooney said, the group has promised donors recognition for contributions at the memorial site.

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