More than 500 names have been newly etched into the granite walls of the IAFF’s Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial, honoring members who made the ultimate sacrifice between 2021 and 2022. They were remembered in a solemn and moving ceremony held in Colorado Springs Sept. 16.
“It’s not how they died, but how they lived,” said General President Edward Kelly. “Every fire fighter, regardless of background or birth, is united by a common purpose: the desire to serve.”
He acknowledged the various hazards they faced, including occupational cancer, fatal injuries, illness, and suicide. Their sacrifices, Kelly emphasized, are the bedrock of the firefighting profession, reminding us of the dangers members confront daily.
“This job, this calling of ours, takes far too many lives far too soon,” he said. “Our union, this IAFF, honors their sacrifice by promising to make our dangerous job as safe as possible.”
“We remember their heroism, the way these ordinary men and women did extraordinary things for strangers on every call, on every run. They saved lives, changed lives, supported families, touched hearts, and fostered community. They gave their everything to us.”
Colorado Springs Local 5 President Curt Crumb discussed the great pride Local 5 – and the larger community – takes in looking over the IAFF Memorial.
“We are blessed to be here for you; we are honored to be a part of this ceremony with you,” he said. “Know that when you choose to come back, you can expect the men and women of Local 5 to be here for you then, just as we are now. And know that Local 5 will be here with your loved ones every other day of the year.”
The memorial is both a reminder of the bravery fire fighters embody – and a call to protect future generations of fire fighters, said Colorado Springs Mayor Yemi Mobolade.
“One fire fighter lost is one too many,” he said. “All communities here and beyond must continue to work to ensure our fire fighters can operate under the safest conditions possible. We must invest in new technologies to keep our fire fighters safe, invest in training that supports that safety, and provide the support they need for their physical health, mental health, and well-being.”
Following Mobolade’s remarks, IAFF Honor Guard members from across both countries read the names of the dead – each time sounding the bell and rendering a flag salute. An Honor Guard member then presented the family with the flag of the International. In all, the bell tolled 572 times; 572 flags given for 572 brothers and sisters who sacrificed their lives in service to others.
Due to COVID, this year’s Ceremony included line-of-duty deaths from 2021 (243 members) and 2022 (211 members).
A total of 118 line-of-duty deaths from 1918 to 2020 were also added to the Memorial this year. These members died from occupational diseases recently recognized by their fire department, their Local, and their state or provincial governments as occurring in the line of duty.
The wall now includes 9,224 IAFF members who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“Men and women who, regardless of their station in life, were united in the most important way: they were fire fighters,” said Kelly. “May we always tell their stories, honor their memories, and celebrate their lives.”