Three yellow firefighter helmets rested on three simple black blocks, each helmet lettered with the last name of the fallen. Three roses lay in a red hush at the base of each of the blocks. Three white doves, released, raced like souls toward the blue sky as bagpipes wailed "Amazing Grace."
Three heroes gone, lost to cancer born from the toxic smoke-filled environment of their jobs.
Not one of them made it out of their 40s.
Hundreds of mourners gathered at the Firefighters Memorial in Carson City's Mills Park at 1 p.m. Saturday to honor the three fallen Nevada firefighters, as well as those who have given their lives to the service.
Pastor Ruth Hanusa, chaplain for the Nevada Firefighters Memorial spoke of the wilderness - a place all firefighters come to know both in literal terms and in experiential.
"The wilderness is a lonely place," said Hanusa. "A place where you have to confront yourself, a place where you come face-to-face with your God." A place where smoke covers your eyes and ash fills your lungs and the flames of a fire test your will.
Ronald Crews, former Cleveland Brown and a 17-year veteran of the Las Vegas Fire Department was only 47-years-old when he succumbed to cancer on Oct. 21, 2003. He left behind two sons and his wife of 23 years, Dora.
William Harnedy, a 10-year veteran firefighter/paramedic of the North Las Vegas Department, lost his battle with the disease on Dec. 11, 2003 at the age of 40. His fiancée, Bridgette John looked on from the front row.
Ray Mecham, 13-year veteran of the Clark County fire department, was taken from his wife and six kids on March 11, 2003 at age 44.
"Today we honor the lives of three comrades who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their respective communities," said Steve Frady, volunteer fireman and secretary of the Nevada Firefighters Memorial. "Indeed, it is but one of many hazards firefighters knowingly face with each response to an alarm."
The ceremony, which traditionally takes place the last Saturday of National Fire Prevention Week, also honored firefighters Bill Farr and Lody Smith with distinguished service plaques.
The addition of the three firefighter brings the total number of names of Nevada firefighters known to have died in the line of duty to 54, each bearing a plaque on the wall of the memorial adjacent to the Fireman's Prayer.
The earliest known death occurred on Sept. 6, 1870 when a member of Liberty Engine Company No. 1 was killed while fighting a house fire in Gold Hill. å
Contact reporter Peter Thompson at email@example.com or 881-1215.