Memorial honors fallen firefighters

Firefighters from around the state gathered Saturday in Mills Park, their gold and silver badges crossed with black mourning bands.

Four red roses waited on a black-draped stand; four new plaques glistened on the wall of the Nevada Firefighters Memorial.

Every year, during National fire prevention Week, members of what they call the Nevada Fire Service - the unofficial composite of all the fire agencies, career or volunteer, local or state or federal - gather at the memorial to honor some who have died in service.

Saturday, four fallen comrades were remembered. Two of them had been alive until late summer, perishing during 2000's wildfires.

"To be a firefighter means not to hold on to your own life so tightly that you can't save another," Chaplain Ruth Hanusa said in her invocation.

Scott Scherer, chief of staff for Gov. Kenny Guinn stood in for the governor and noted that one-half the 46 names enshrined in the memorial since it was established in 1993 were of those who died fighting wildland fires.

Philip Conner, 29, of Prescott, Ariz., was a seasonal firefighter with the National Park Service assigned to this summer's Charlie Fire in Elko County. He died as a result of injuries sustained on Aug. 3 in a helicopter crash while supporting the wildland fire with water and supplies.

Lester Shadrick, 53, of Lake Charles, La., died Aug. 13 when the helicopter he was flying crashed 50 miles east of Fallon. Shadrick had been making water drops for the Bureau of Land Management on the Twin Peaks Fire.

His helicopter reportedly suddenly flew into the side of a canyon after he turned the aircraft around and was headed out. Shadrick was flying on contract with BLM through ERA Aviation and was based at the Stead Airport near Reno.

Maggie Durham, 60 and a member of the Searchlight Volunteer Fire Department, died of injuries she sustained while responding to a motor vehicle accident on Jan. 23, 1987.

Durham stepped across the highway from her residence waiting for the Searchlight rescue unit to pick her up, which had been the custom. When she heard an approaching siren, she stepped back across the highway and into the path of a responding law enforcement unit.

Clay Farnsworth was a Boise, Idaho, pilot whose company had been one of the first to contract with the Bureau of Land Management for helicopter services. Farnsworth was part of the army of wildland firefighters to respond to Nevada's destructive wildland fire season of 1964. He had been ferrying firefighters to the Elko area and was returning to Boise at the time his plane crashed 10 miles north of the Elko Airport on Aug. 16, 1964.

As memorial secretary Steve Frady read the name and history of each of the four enrollees, family members placed a rose by their hats and a dove was set free.

Bagpipers Rick James, of Carson City, and Eric Poleski ,of the Clark County Fire Department, played "Amazing Grace" and a mass release of 60 doves near the close of the ceremony.

The annual ceremony is an opportunity for firefighters to honor someone who has made exceptional contributions to the Nevada Fire Service. This year's honoree was retired Sparks Fire Chief Ron Irwin, chosen for distinguished service in a 38-year career.


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