Firefighters gather in Elgin to remember those lost in past year

  • A giant flag hangs between two ladder trucks Saturday during the annual Elgin Area Firefighters' Memorial at the George Van De Voorde Firefighter Memorial Park in Elgin.

      A giant flag hangs between two ladder trucks Saturday during the annual Elgin Area Firefighters' Memorial at the George Van De Voorde Firefighter Memorial Park in Elgin. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin Fire Department Chief John Fahy introduces fire officials who attended the annual Elgin Area Firefighters' Memorial on Saturday.

      Elgin Fire Department Chief John Fahy introduces fire officials who attended the annual Elgin Area Firefighters' Memorial on Saturday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Chaplain Roger Pollock delivers the invocation Saturday during the annual Elgin Area Firefighters' Memorial.

      Chaplain Roger Pollock delivers the invocation Saturday during the annual Elgin Area Firefighters' Memorial. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • A large crowd gathers during Saturday's Elgin Area Firefighters' Memorial.

      A large crowd gathers during Saturday's Elgin Area Firefighters' Memorial. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • The bell is rung during the Elgin Area Firefighters' Memorial for each firefighter that the firefighter community lost over the past year.

      The bell is rung during the Elgin Area Firefighters' Memorial for each firefighter that the firefighter community lost over the past year. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/7/2016 7:09 PM

Fire departments from throughout the region gathered Saturday morning in Elgin to remember firefighters who lost their lives during the past year, including five who were killed statewide in the line of duty.

The annual Elgin Area Firefighters' Memorial service at George Van De Voorde Firefighter Memorial Park included the lowering of a flag to half-staff and the ringing of a ceremonial bell.

 

Dave Schmidt, assistant chief with the Elgin Fire Department, said the department has hosted the service annually for at least 23 years.

"It's a time for us to bring everyone together and recognize those active or retired members that have passed away," Schmidt said. "An important part of our job is to remember those that have gone before us."

The list of fire departments that participated in Saturday's service included those from Bartlett, Elgin, Hanover Park and West Dundee. All four reported deaths of retired firefighters who had worked for their departments. Two of the retirees who died -- William "Bill" Misner and Richard Lundy -- served in Elgin.

In announcing the death of retired Lt. Dave Young, West Dundee Fire Chief Randy Freise talked about how Young served the department from 1973 to 1983 and was "instrumental" in creating its paramedic program.

As a giant American flag flew above the park, officials also read the names of five firefighters from Illinois who died on duty: Chicago firefighter Daniel Capuano, Franklin Park firefighter Kenneth Harris, Chicago firefighter Edward Toomey, Freeport firefighter Michael Pontius and Matteson firefighter Mark Zielinski.

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In addition, Elgin Fire Chief John Fahy announced that a Schaumburg firefighter died from cancer on Friday. "Our prays go out to the family of the Schaumburg fireman who lost his life last night," he said.

Illinois State Fire Marshal Matt Perez delivered the memorial message.

"We honor those who have gone before us and made the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow man," Perez said. "We honor their service to humanity, to fellow firefighters and their community. We pay tribute to their courage and sense of duty."

Perez encouraged active firefighters make every effort to avoid serious injuries or fatalities by doing what they can to improve firefighter safety. "I do not believe there is such a thing as an acceptable casualty rate," he said.

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