Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
Wy'east Fire volunteers at Sunday's annual rededication of the Wy'east Fire District Wall of Honor.
As of Tuesday, August 15, 2017
“We honor and try to keep the memory of all our deceased brothers and sisters alive so they are never forgotten,” Fire Chief Greg Borton said Sunday at the Odell fire hall.
About 75 people, plus 30 volunteers, attended the 15th annual rededication ceremony of the Wy’East Fire District Wall of Honor.
“This is an important memorial, it reminds us all about what is at stake,” said guest speaker U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, who lives in Hood River. “You pick up the phone (and) they just expect someone to show up, ambulance or firetruck, and they don’t realize all that goes on behind that, that risk you all take to provide that life-saving effort. Today it is important for us to acknowledge that and respect those who have gone before and thank those who are here today.” The day was marked by cool temperatures and a calm breeze, a remarkable change from the past few years when the event was held in 90-degree temperatures.
After his invocation, Chaplain Ricky Walker quoted a part of Psalm 133 — “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” Walker said, “This is scripture we tend to forget, in a time when we all come together, as we take this time in memory of those who went before us so we can come together and unite.”
Borton added, “If it wasn’t for you the community, firefighters and all our friends, none of this would be possible. It is great to have you here to show your support to the volunteers and the fire district.”
Volunteers designed and built the memorial, with some help from contractors.
“I think it says a lot for the volunteers. This memorial is to honor all of the deceased members of Wy’East Fire District.” The benches mention the Odell and Pine Grove departments, which merged several years ago to become Wy’East.
“We have only had two line of duty deaths and I can tell you, two are more than enough,” he said (they are John Hazlett and Louis Mohr). “It is very stressful; it takes a lot out of volunteers and fire district when you lose one of your firefighters.”
Borton said the wall honors local volunteers but also serves as a tribute to firefighters everywhere, both structural and wildland. Borton noticed that 2017 has already been a tragic year in the western U.S., with more than 60 line of duty deaths.
“We truly do appreciate everything you the community gives back to us. Many of us have loved ones who have been in the service and are on the honor wall,” Borton said.
Walden told the firefighters and family, “Thank you for your service, and for being here to recognize those who have served. Thank you to the family members who stand behind them and support them and especially a prayer for those who responded and lost their lives in the line of duty.”
Walden noted that at the federal funding level he is working to secure fire service grants, which many departments have used to upgrade equipment, to provide advanced communications technology nationwide. This would provide “inter-operable” communications links by harnessing the latest innovations that Walden said, “sadly were missing when first responders arrive at the scene in 9-11 in New York City and could not talk to each other and in many cases perished as a result.”
He told the firefighters, “Because of the recommendations of the 911 Commission, we are on the cusp now 18 years later, so that wherever you come from you can join in common cause in case of emergency and be able to respond as safely as possible.”