Memorial dedication

Chuck Montgomery, Deputy Fire Chief and Director of the Fire and Police Training Academy in Glendale, peers at the name of Glendale Fire Department engineer Lester Hillis, who died in 1974. Hillis is one of 119 firefighters whose names were engraved at the monuments at the memorial,which was  dedicated Oct. 18 at Wesley Bolin Plaza.

In 1902, the first firefighter death in the line of duty was recorded in Tucson with the death of Firefighter William Katzenstein. Since that time, 119 firefighters and paramedics have lost their lives in the line of duty.

With nearly 250,000 emergency calls annually, firefighters across the state face the reality of danger every time they respond to a call.  

All of those firefighters and paramedics were honored by the calling of their names and stating of the date and the tolling of the bells that rang out their somber tone throughout the  memorial Sunday morning.

Fire Engineer Lester Hillis, Glendale Fire Department’s only loss, died in 1979, in the line of duty responding to a car accident. The fire truck Hillis was riding in was hit by a car. The fire truck overturned, and although Hillis was rescued from the truck, he later died at the hospital from the injuries he sustained.

The Arizona Firefighters and Emergency Paramedics Memorial was formally signed into existence July 16, 2013  by Gov. Jan Brewer.

It was a ceremonial signing not just something routinely done behind closed doors in an office. She was joined by firefighters, state lawmakers and EMTs. Rep. Bob Robson, R-Chandler, was House Bill 2136’s primary sponsor.

The new law, which passed with unanimous, bipartisan approval, allowed a memorial to be placed in Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, across from the state Capitol in Phoenix.  There was a stipulation that private funds must be used for design and construction of the memorial.

During the dedication of the memorial Oct. 18, Brewer reiterated  her  support for the project.

Today, firefighters are called upon in many ways – to extinguish blazes in homes and businesses, to respond to medical emergencies, to rescue stranded hikers, perform swift water rescues, and fight massive wildland fires covering tens of thousands of acres.

In 1973, 11 members of the Kingman Fire Department lost their lives in a single explosion. In 1990, six firefighters lost their lives in a massive wild fire. In 2013, 19 Prescott Hot Shots lost their lives in the Yarnell fire. Fallen firefighters include men and women of all ages and all ethnic backgrounds.

The Arizona Firefighters and Emergency Paramedics Memorial will provide a place to remember their sacrifices, reflect on the loss of each of these 119 Fallen and provide space to remember those whose lives will be sacrificed in the future protecting lives, homes, businesses and families.