Local News

Somber parade honors fallen firefighters

Posted May 2, 2009 3:13 p.m. EDT
Updated May 2, 2009 8:53 p.m. EDT

— Bagpipe music and a somber parade down Hillsborough Street in Raleigh Saturday morning honored an unfortunate distinction: In 2008, North Carolina led the nation in deaths among firefighters.

Eleven firefighters died on the job, from medical reasons or in a traffic accident.

The only entries in their memorial parade were units from fire departments that also lost members in the line of duty.

"We're a brotherhood. We're like family," said Joey Webb, with the Waynesville Fire Department who is western director of the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

That brotherhood goes back a long time – Saturday's parade honored a twelfth firefighter, William T. Barnes who died in the line of duty in Greenville in 1924.

Among those who died in 2008 was Raleigh's Lt. Herman S. Jones. The 27-year veteran of the department had a heart attack at Fire Station 10 Jan. 18, 2009, and died in the hospital four days later.

"He was the first one we had in probably 30 years who lost his life on duty," Capt. Marvin Evans of the Raleigh Fire Department said.

Along Hillsborough Street, little children loved the shiny fire trucks. Firefighters in the parade outnumbered the spectators.

"That doesn't bother us. We're here for the families. We're here to honor the families and do what they can do to help the folks through this and honor the fallen firefighters," Webb said.

The names of Barnes, Jones and the other 11 firefighters who died on the job in 2008 will be added to the 216 names already etched on the N.C. Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Nash Square.

"Even though the jobs is dangerous, there's a good chance you might lose your life doing it – we all understand that's the price you've got to be willing to pay," Capt. Marvin Evans of the Raleigh Fire Department said.