OGDEN -- In the past year, 72 firefighters -- many of them volunteers -- died in the line of duty around the nation. Several groups came together Saturday to honor the fallen heroes in a memorial and celebration of life.
A memorial service was held at the Ogden Amphitheater in conjunction with an event to raise awareness for the fallen and the families they left behind. The event was a partnership among the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, America's Fallen Firefighters and the National Federation of Federal Employees Forest Service.
"We may not know anyone in the fire service, yet we feel so deeply for them," said Ted Black, state deputy fire marshal.
As far as injuries and damage, this was one of the worst summers on record for wildland firefighters, said Amanda DeShazo, of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. An especially hard hit was the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots killed in a massive wildfire in Arizona this summer.
For the service in Ogden, the names of all 72 fallen firefighters were read aloud while a ceremonial bell was rung. The most notable attendees were the motorcyclists adorned in leather jackets bearing the logo of Fire Ride. The group was started by Rick King and Mike Leatham, both firefighters, as a way to honor their fallen comrades. They rode from the South Valley Harley-Davidson dealership and swarmed in through downtown Ogden underneath an American flag hung from two fire truck ladders.
The American Fallen Firefighters was raising money for a national monument to be erected in Ogden.
"Why Ogden? Why not? It's the crossroads of the West," Leatham said. "Why do all the monuments need to be built in Washington, D.C.?"
Leatham wants the monument and event to grow on a national scale. In a few years' time, he pictures 50,000 people filling the city and even the president of the United States coming to speak.
Right now, the group is selling sponsorships for each of the bricks that will be laid around the memorial. The centerpiece statue was built two years ago on the north side of the Ogden Municipal Building, but the memorial will add black marble walls adorned with the names of fallen firefighters.
The Wildland Firefighters Foundation was also raising money and awareness for the families of fallen firefighters.
"Many of these firefighters are volunteers. They're family members, they're newlyweds. And they're always sacrificing for our comfort and well-being," said Mirage Thrams, event director. "It's the epitome of selflessness. It's the ultimate sacrifice."
Contact reporter Andreas Rivera at 801-625-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Andreas.