Uniformed firefighters, family members, and dignitaries from throughout California gathered on the grounds of the State Capitol Saturday, to pay tribute to those who gave their lives to protect the state and its citizens.
In a midday ceremony steeped in fire service tradition, fifteen names were added to nearly 1,270 fallen firefighters on the California Firefighters Memorial. Located at the center of Sacramento’s Capitol Park, the Memorial bears the names of California firefighters who have died in the line of duty since California became a state in 1850.
“We are here today for a few simple reasons. We come here to honor our brothers, your loved ones. To let you know that we will never forget them,” said Lou Paulson, chair of the California Fire Foundation and president of California Professional Firefighters. “Like the other brothers and sisters on this wall, we have a bond with them that is eternal.”
Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and California Attorney General Kamala Harris were among those paying their respects at the ceremony, which featured a solemn procession of uniformed firefighters and the presentation of flags to representatives of the fifteen honorees.
“It’s a remarkable gift – their readiness to respond, and it is accompanied by little reward or fame” Newsom said of the fallen firefighters. “And it is too often darkened by unthinkable risks and unavoidable tragedy.”
During this year’s ceremony, Santa Fe Springs Fire-Rescue Captain Robert Mora, whose brother Armando Mora, Jr. lost his own battle with job-related cancer this year, paid tribute to the families of those whose loved ones have paid the ultimate price.
“Each of these men taught us that every day we are able to wear this uniform and serve is a blessing, so it is incumbent on all of us to remain mindful of their sacrifices and to honor their lives by treasuring our own,” Mora told the families. “If my brother were standing here with me, he would end by saying that we really are so fortunate for what we have, and for what we do.”
Unveiled in April of 2002, the California Firefighters Memorial features two stunning statues and a dramatic Memorial Wall on which the names of 1,283 fallen firefighters are engraved. The Memorial was created without any state funding through private contributions to the California Fire Foundation, most of them directly from firefighters.
The annual ceremony is conducted by the California Fire Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization created by California Professional Firefighters in 1987. The Foundation’s mission is to aid fallen firefighter families and the communities they protect through an array of public education and victim assistance projects. California Professional Firefighters (CPF) represents 30,000 career firefighters and paramedics. It has over 170 affiliated local unions, and is the State Council for the International Association of Fire Fighters.