By Starrla Cray
LORETTO, MONTROSE, DELANO, MN “The Loretto Fire Department is proud to have helped with a memorial that pays tribute to firefighters,” noted Loretto Fire Department office manager Kathy Larkin.
She was referring to the memorial site planned at the state capitol to honor Minnesota’s fallen firefighters.
Firefighters from all over the state helped raise money for the $600,000 project.
“I think it’s a great deal I really do. I think there should be something to recognize them,” New Germany Fire Chief Steve VanLith said.
The Minnesota Fire Service Foundation launched the campaign in July, asking fire departments to donate $30 per member.
Several local departments supported the effort, including those of Delano, Loretto, Montrose, Waverly, Howard Lake, Dassel, Winsted, Mayer, New Germany, and Lester Prairie.
“We talked about it at our relief association meeting, and donated $30 per member,” Montrose Second Fire Chief Jeff Trout said.
“The Loretto Fire Department donated $900, [which is] $30 per firefighter,” Larkin added. “That money was taken out of the general fund.”
“Everybody feels the memorial will be very much appreciated,” Mayer Fire Chief Rod Maetzold added.
Since 1881, 194 Minnesota firefighters have died in the line of duty, according to a press release from the Minnesota Fire Service Foundation.
A statue of a firefighter rescuing a young girl has stood near the baggage claim at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for more than 20 years, but the Minnesota Fire Service Foundation is planning to create a larger, more accessible memorial.
The new site will include the statue that’s at the airport, as well as several columns inscribed with the names of Minnesota firefighters killed in the line of duty.
“It’s a good move,” Winsted Fire Chief Chad Engel said. “Right now, it’s at the airport, and of the four or five times I’ve been there, I don’t know that I’ve ever noticed it.”
The project cost is estimated at $500,000 for memorial construction, and $100,000 for a maintenance fund per state regulations.
Construction will begin in the spring, and be completed by National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in October.
More than $600,000 was committed in donations and pledges, and extra funds will go toward educational scholarships for children of active, retired, or deceased firefighters, as well as for spouses of deceased firefighters, and for minor expenses for the October memorial dedication.
Anyone who would like to donate can send financial contributions to Minnesota Fire Service Foundation c/o Flagship Bank, 7525 Office Ridge Road, Eden Prairie, MN 55344.
Online contributions can be made at the Minnesota Fire Service Foundation website.