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Wright-Patt community honors fallen firefighters

Jacob King, 788th Civil Engineering Squadron fire chief, speaks Nov. 21, 2018, during a memorial honoring Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, firefighters who have died in the line of duty. The event was held in Building 266 on the anniversary of a fire that destroyed a previous structure on that site killing two firefighters. (U.S. Air Force photo by R.J. Oriez)

Jacob King, 788th Civil Engineer Squadron fire chief, speaks Nov. 21, 2018, during a memorial honoring Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, firefighters who have died in the line of duty. The event was held in Building 266 on the anniversary of a fire that destroyed a previous structure on that site killing two firefighters. (U.S. Air Force photo/R.J. Oriez)

Retired Fire Chief Neil Mangan and retired Fire Capt. Forest Green place a wreath Nov. 21, 2018, in remembrance of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, firefighters who died in the line of duty. Mangan and Green both were among those that battled a blaze Nov. 21, 1961, which killed two of their fellow firefighters. Chase McGrath, 788th Civil Engineering Squadron district fire chief and Steven McKee, International Association of Firefighters Local F88 secretary/treasurer, assisted in the wreath laying. (U.S. Air Force photo by R.J. Oriez)

Retired Fire Chief Neil Mangan and retired Fire Capt. Forest Green place a wreath Nov. 21, 2018, in remembrance of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, firefighters who died in the line of duty. Mangan and Green both were among those that battled a blaze Nov. 21, 1961, which killed two of their fellow firefighters. Chase McGrath, 788th Civil Engineer Squadron district fire chief and Steven McKee, International Association of Firefighters Local F88 secretary/treasurer, assisted in the wreath laying. (U.S. Air Force photo/R.J. Oriez)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The 88th Air Base Wing’s  Fire Station No. 1 held a memorial service Nov. 21 in honor of the firefighters who lost their lives serving our community.

Captain Steven McKee from Fire Station No. 1 welcomed attendees and introduced speakers.

Maj. Tyler Johnson, commander, 788th Civil Engineer Squadron acknowledged firefighters who served and lost their lives, which included:  Frank A. Smith who died in 1932 while fighting a fire in a motorpool facility; Dale V. Kelchner and William J. Collins who both lost their lives fighting the fire that burned down Air Force Logistic Command (building 262-A, now 266) in 1961, and Harold “Sparky” Sparks who died of a heart attack after fighting a fire in 2009.

“Today is about honoring those who leave their homes and families to serve us as a community. These men committed their lives to a profession of service. They looked danger in the eye and they ran into the flames. Today we remember their courage and sacrifice,” Johnson said.

According to a report of the Building 262-A fire on Nov. 21, 1961, firefighters responded to a call at 11:50 p.m. and later called for assistance from Airmen and firefighters from surrounding communities. Firemen managed to stop the fire from spreading but a backdraft caused the fire in the building to worsen, trapping rescuers inside. Firefighters Kelchner and Collins were found in the following days.

Fire Chief Jacob King addressed the audience and acknowledged the family members of those who served.

“Since 1917, we have protected this community and dedicated our lives to the mission. We will continue to carry on this mission every day and will continue to remember our past and embrace our future. My sincere thanks to those who have served and my condolences to the family members who have lost a loved one,” King said.

Col. Thomas Sherman, 88 ABW commander, spoke to the importance of the men and women who serve and protect the public and shared his ties to firefighting in his own family.

“I grew up in a family of firefighters--my father has served as a firefighter for many years in California and today, I want to reflect on those who have served the Wright-Patt Fire Department and have lost their lives in the line of duty.”