SACRAMENTO (AP) - Twenty-nine names were added Saturday to the limestone memorial for fallen firefighters in Capitol Park, a
ceremony that bore witness to recent tragic events as well as
decades-old unsung sacrifices.
Time and distance meant many of those who attended the event had
never heard of each other's losses, much less met before the late
morning memorial, which was suffused with the mournful sounds of
"Even though we don't know each other, even though we may never
meet again, we have a tie that binds us," said Vito Impastato, a
Contra Costa County firefighter, whose father, also a firefighter,
died of cancer four years ago.
Those honored include five U.S. Forest Service firefighters who
died last year battling the arson-lit Esperanza fire in Riverside
County - Pablo Cerda, Daniel Hoover-Najera, Mark Allen
Loutzenhiser, Jason Robert McKay and Jess Edward McLean.
Two others - Matthew Charles Burton and Scott Peter Desmond -
were Contra Costa County firefighters who died this year trying
without success to save an elderly couple from their burning San
Others died years ago but were only recently brought to the
attention of the group that maintains the memorial.
Dale Byrd, a firefighter from Buena Park, suffered a heart
attack while fighting an industrial fire in 1972. Luther Rodarte, a
U.S. Forest Service firefighter, died in 1967 trying to rescue a
colleague in another state. William Porteus Chapman, an off duty
Oakland firefighter, collapsed in 1943 while fighting a blaze at a
War Department tire depot near his house.
Still others died of illnesses they contracted because of their
dangerous work. Several, including Alison Greene of the San
Francisco Fire Department, lost their lives in job-related cancers.
And some died in on-duty vehicle accidents, including Ronald
Yale Wiley, a deputy fire marshal with the Richmond Fire
Department, and Bryan Zollner, a battalion chief with the
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Several dignitaries, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, attended the event. In a brief speech,
Boxer said, "Thank you for doing your jobs as firefighters."
Schwarzenegger did not speak, but he did sign a law extending
health benefits to the families of federal firefighters in
California who die in the line of duty. Until now, those benefits
were available only to state and local firefighters' families.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)