Posted at: 09/26/2012 9:25 PM
Updated at: 09/26/2012 10:21 PM
By: Dietrich Nissen
Local Firefighters Remember Those Killed In The Line Of Duty
(ABC 6 News) -- Minnesota firefighters who have died on duty will be honored Sunday in Saint Paul when a new memorial is unveiled. 206 firefighters have lost their lives since 1881, and at least eight of them were from Southeast Minnesota.
It's been more than two decades but Winona firefighter, Bill Heitman, can still recall losing his mentor, Dan Wroblewski.
"Found out the day after what happened and all we got a call said Danny was dead," says Heitman. He'd later learn Dan died of a stress-induced heart attack while finishing a busy shift.
"It's kind of a kick in the guts cause you- we had no idea anything was going on," says Heitman. But he’s hardly alone in mourning the loss of a friend.
"One other firefighter come running in saying Bob is dropped down in the tank outside," says Plainview's former Fire Chief, John Smith. He can clearly remember the early morning chimney fire where he lost his friend and fellow firefighter, Bob Johnson.
"I got in there started doing CPR right away," says Smith. "There was just nothing you could do. I guess it was an aneurysm and he was gone before he ever hit the bottom of the tank."
To honor him, the Plainview Fire Department retired Johnson’s locker number and placed a memorial plaque in front of their hall. The department’s current chief says Johnson helped design two of their fire trucks before he died.
As a way to show their respect, Plainview firefighters will ride one of those truck’s during Sunday's Fallen Firefighter Memorial service.
"It's not only to remember Bob, it's to remember all firemen," says Smith.
"[Dan] was taken way too soon, and uh it's nice that there's some way, somewhere he'll be remembered," says Heitman. "He's the last one who ever died in the line of duty and you hope he stays the last one."
Both men say risking your life comes with the job and while the memorial sits as a reminder death is just one fire away, they hope the number of names stays at 206.
The Fallen Firefighters’ ceremony starts at 2 p.m. at the state capitol. The public is encouraged and welcome to attend.