Idaho

Fallen firefighters memorial offers solemn remembrance, as 9/11 anniversary approaches

Two uniformed firefighters carry a memorial wreath to lay on the Idaho Fallen Firefighter Memorial on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. (Betsy Z. Russell / Idaho Press)

Deputy Chief Kirk Carpenter of the Nampa Fire Department told the crowd at the annual Idaho Fallen Firefighters Memorial ceremony on Friday that he’s a third-generation firefighter, following in the footsteps of first his grandfather, and then his uncle, “who guided me into this.”

Then, 14 years ago, Carpenter’s beloved uncle was killed in the line of duty in Oregon.

“There’s a legacy in place that will never be forgotten,” Carpenter said. “What we promise is to never forget.”

Idaho’s memorial has 24 names on it, the earliest from 1894 – TD Cahalan Jr. of the Boise Fire Department, who died on the Fourth of July – and the most recent Brandon Erickson of the Eagle Fire Department, who died on Nov. 21, 2013.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter told the crowd, “We hope that we never have to add another name.”

He said with the recent opening of a new fire training center in Boise, he feels more confident about that, improving safety both for firefighters and the public. Though firefighters always risk death in their work, he said, “The better we do in training and equipping them, the less likely we make it that that will have to happen.”

Carpenter expressed sympathy for those remembering loved ones killed on duty, sharing how he and his family mourned his uncle. “It was my job to never forget,” he said. “It was my job to create a positive out of a horrible tragedy.”

All firefighters, he said, have a “service heart.” Their greatest hope, he said, is “to one day interfere with death” — to save a life.

The Idaho Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park, located along the Greenbelt off Shoreline Drive in downtown Boise, was established 10 years ago; this year, it got an upgrade, thanks to donations, with the stone face where the names are engraved replaced and newly carved. In the process, six more names were added, including three who died in 1980 and one from 2001 who had been missed when the memorial first was built.

Also added were the two most recent names: Kurt Aikele of the Blackfoot Fire Department, killed in December of 2012; and Eagle’s Erickson.

Erickson, a captain, was just 36 when he died from complications from a second back surgery stemming from an on-duty injury he suffered in 2012. His widow, Bonni, accompanied by their young son, Jack, said the Firefighters Prayer at Friday’s ceremony.

In addition to firefighters killed in Idaho, Randy Majors, Boise Fire Department chaplain, honored those who “paid the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11,” when 343 firefighters were among the nearly 3,000 people killed in terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. Tuesday is the 17th anniversary of the attacks.