by Firefighter A.W. “Smokey” Linn
When I am called to duty, God
whenever flames may rage,
Give me the strength to save some life
Whatever be its age.
Help me to embrace a little child
Before it’s too late,
Or some older person
from the horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert
And hear the weakest shout,
And quickly and efficiently
to put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling
and give the best in me,
To guard my neighbor
And protect his property.
And if according to Your will
I have to lose my life,
Please bless with Your protecting hand
My children and my wife.
BONNERS FERRY — Fire-fighters and spectators gathered at the Bonners Ferry Fire Department on Oct. 8 for the 2017 National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend Observance. A parade of firefighting apparatus from all the surrounding area and departments began at Super 1 Foods and finished at the fire department.
The exception was Bonners Ferry Department Ladder 1, which was adorned with the American flag, attached to the tip of its ladder, then raised high over Arizona Street, next to the fire department.
The day broke clouds, with sun spilling over the street as people gathered to honor the sacrifices made by lost heroes and their families, to honor all those lost in the call of duty.
Amid the pomp and circumstance, the beauty of uniform, the shine of chrome and badge, the people in attendance, from firefighter to citizen held a solemn face and emotion echoed in their eyes.
For young Hall Mountain Firefighter Ben Allinger this occasion was for, “...remembering everybody else who has come before me, and at the same time, hoping that I’m going to do the same thing — if the time comes.”
North Bench Firefighter Scott Rubenacker, a military veteran for more than 20 years who found his family as a firefighter, struggled to describe what the event meant to him, saying, “Words can’t explain it.”
Following a welcome from Boundary County Chaplain Len Pine, the brand new Boundary County Fire Chief’s Association Honor Guard, comprised of members from a variety of departments, made their official debut. The Honor Guard consisted of Granite Allinger, Wally Nyberg, Cheryl Jackson, Alan Hamilton, Tony Rohrwasser, and Ken Baker.
“I’m extremely proud of the Boundary County Fire Chief’s Association Honor Guard,” said North Bench Fire Chief Gus Jackson. “I think that they are doing a wonderful job with what they have and I look forward to seeing the great things they will have to offer in the future.”
Portraying a precision belying their short time together, the Honor Guard had the crowd in rapt attention during the presentation of the colors. Pine then took the stage with his rendition of the national anthem that echoed onto the street with powerful voice.
Fire agency personnel then read the names and departments of each of the fallen heroes, taking turns despite the train the roared through. Chaplain Earl Matthews read the Fireman’s Prayer, followed by a moment of intense silence, before Chaplain Lewis Clark stepped up to join together the audience in a prayer.
Bonners Ferry Councilman Rick Alonzo read the 2017 Fallen Fighters Memorial Proclamation, calling on all the citizens of Bonners Ferry, Boundary County, and all patriotic, civic, and educational organizations to observe the day of October 8, 2017, “...in recognition of the patriotic service and dedicated efforts of our fire and emergency personnel by lowering American flags on all buildings to half-staff.”
In a moment that touched the crowd, the ceremony turned to the five bells. On the antique fire engine parked just outside the department, hung an old bell that was sounded off for all in attendance.
“They used the bell system to inform what was happening when there was a call,” explained Pine. “When a firefighter died, the code that went out was morse code. What went over the telegraph was three sets of five bells. You would hear the bells five, pause, five, pause, five. That was the traditional informing of the whole department that someone had died. That tradition has carried on since.”
Bonners Ferry Firefighter Pat Warkentin brought the audience and all the participants to the emotional conclusion with his rendition of “Amazing Grace”, played on the bagpipes as the flags were lowered to half-mast, then followed by “Going Home.”
The audience broke at the end, invited by Pine to mingle with the firefighters. The Boundary County community vibe set in, as all congregated together, shaking hands and patting backs, as the fire trucks slowly paraded away, awaiting their next mission.
*Chaplain Pine is working on finding funds to help obtain uniforms for the Boundary County Fire Chief’s Association Honor Guard (about $4,200 for seven Class A uniforms) and additional equipment. If you would like to help with this effort, call Len Pine at 208-946-9761 for more information.