Remembering 2 Alaska fallen firefighters

National fallen firefighters memorial weekend
Published: May. 6, 2023 at 10:21 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Saturday, many paused to honor 144 fire service heroes at the 42nd National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend. Of those honorees, two are Alaskan firefighters who died in action in 2022. Both were remembered in the ceremony, as well as others who paid the ultimate sacrifice while supporting firefighting efforts.

“We gather to pay our respects to 144 firefighters that died in the line of duty, 79 in 2022 and 65 in previous years,” said Captain Garon Mosby with the St. Louis Fire Department.

A candlelight service took place as a tribute for all firefighters who died in the line of duty and a way to honor their families.

“Its important for us to do that so their memories live on in the community that they served in and lived in and in the hearts of the friends and families that were touched by their lives, no matter how long or how short they lived,” said Joe Minogue, a National Fallen Firefighters Foundation lead advocate.

The two Alaskans recognized during the event both passed while actively fighting fires.

One Alaskan, Jared bird, 36, died in a helicopter crash while fighting the Moose Fire in Northern Idaho. Bird was employed by ROTAK helicopter services, was a decorated military veteran and experienced helicopter pilot.

The other Alaskan, Doug Ritchie, 56, who was flying air support for fire crews on the ground at the Clear Fire in Alaska when his helicopter crashed. Ritchie was working for Northern Pioneer Helicopters and was known as an exceptionally skilled pilot.

Both are being remembered as heroes.

“That’s what the fire service is, it’s just one family,” Minogue said. “We don’t care where you come from. We don’t care where you’re born, where you lived. We don’t care anything other than you’re apart of our family and we pledge to never forget.”

Strong emotions came out throughout the ceremony as families and friends honored those who have fallen.

“I share your loss, grieve with you and feel the immense void that they leave behind,” Mosby said.

The National Fallen Firefighters Memorial park features a walk of honor composed of bricks, each honoring and remembering a firefighter. There are now more than 13,000 inscribed bricks.

“Being here with you tonight and honoring your loved ones is one of the most meaningful things I’ve done in my fire service career,” Mosby said. “I know what it means to be a firefighter, both the good and the bad that can come with choosing this life. As I hear the story of your loved ones, they hold a special place in my heart.”

The candlelight service was Saturday. There will be a memorial service Sunday at 6 a.m. Alaska Time that will be live streamed on the homepage of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation website.