Rising to the fallen

Odell memorial honors ‘loving memory’ of firefighters

ODELL — To the sound of five bells, the community of Odell dedicated a small space to a large service.

About 300 citizens, including dozens of firefighters, gathered at the fire hall Sunday to dedicate the Fallen Firefighter Memorial, a flag plaza with a four-foot-high black stone listing the names of Odell firefighters who have died.

The event was one day from the anniversary of the death of John Hazlett, who lost his life on Aug. 19, 2001, while driving an Odell tanker truck in a mutual aid call near Cascade Locks. He is the only Odell firefighter to die in the line of duty.

In the memory of Hazlett and all firefighters who have died, an Oregon Fire National Guard tolled a bell five times. The silver bell gleamed in the hot afternoon sun as the firefighters stood at attention.

“Firefighters used to answer the call of bells, but today it’s pagers and radios to signal where the alarms are. Today we return to original code of a firefighter down at the scene: 5-5-5-5, for all those who died in the line of service,” said Phil Burks, honor guard member from Hoodland, Ore.

The event was a local tribute, but Sept. 11 in part set the tone, as speakers recalled the fatal dedication of hundreds of public servants who gave their lives that day. The bronze figure in the center of the memorial stone is from a photograph of a beleaguered firefighter, taken on Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center.

“This recognizes those who have given their lives in service. It is is our way to show gratitude from our community,” said Capt. Devon Wells of Odell Fire District.

State Rep. Patti Smith told the crowd, “First responders are the unsung heroes. As we saw on 9/11, they provide what we all need: protection, safety and comfort. They show absolute dedication to be there first. Think about it — these are the people who when pick up the phone you know they will be there.

“I had the chance to pay tribute to our military veterans at a Fourth of July memorial service,” Smith said. “It was very humbling to hear their stories. I feel that way today.”

Smith presented Odell Fire Chief Jeff Walker with a flag that flew over the state capitol.

State Fire Marshal Bob Garrison said, “I want to make this point: firefighters do not give their lives in service to others. They do not set out at the beginning of the day intending that it be their last. Rather, in the performance of their duty, sometimes their life is taken from them — and from us.”

State Sen. Rick Metsger also spoke, remarking that “The service to the good of all is reflected here today.”

Moments later, Walker and EMS Capt. Dean Kinne pulled away the black shroud, reveling the black memorial stone, reading “In Loving Memory of Our Brothers and Sisters That Have Fallen Far Too Soon.”

Walker told the crowd, “This is dedicated to all the firefighters who have passed on.” He said the department used to put up a plaque in the fire hall meeting room to honor their members, but that the firefighters wanted to do more. Two years ago they began planning a memorial and raising funds.

Kinne said he served with or knew as personal friend every man listed on the memorial.

“This means a tremendous amount to me today,” Kinne said. “Each name has a person and a family behind it, and a tremendous story behind it. May God rest these souls and give them peace, and give the families peace. We’ll never forget them.”

The plaza tiles form the Maltese Cross, the international firefighters’ symbol. Present at the service were volunteers from Odell, Pine Grove, Westside, Parkdale, Dee, and Hood River departments, along with Oregon Department of Forestry, Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue, and the National Scenic Area. Wells also thanked the 9-1-1 dispatchers for their vital role in helping firefighters do their jobs.

The department recognized firefighters Lyle Henage and Randy Mix for coordinating the project.

Henage said that in his six years with Odell and answering calls with department veterans, he has gained a greater appreciation of the firefighters who came before him then.

“It came to light that they created the foundation we walk on,” Henage said. “This is one of the most special things I can do. It gives me goosebumps to think of it. After two years working on it, it gives me a very proud feeling.”

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