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Local fallen firefighters memorial unveiled

Danielle Ryan

After months of planning, the Frederick County Fire & Rescue Museum conducted a formal Dedication Ceremony to honor all fallen fire and emergency services personnel who died in the line of duty throughout the history of Frederick County. Nearly 200 people attended the ceremony to honor the twenty-three men and women who died while involved in the very act of serving others. Plaques with photographs (or Company patch logo for the few for whom no photos have yet been located) were unveiled during the service.

Past Museum President, Jim Deater, and his wife Joy Deater had the idea to do something special for the fallen fire and rescue personnel in the county, and decided that a memorial was the perfect solution. They realized that apart from a Granite Memorial with names in a small plaza at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, a place where photos with written insights regarding the nature of what led to the deaths of the fallen heroes didn’t exist. Furthermore, there had never been a public ceremony for family members of the fallen. This memorial also stands apart from other memorials because it solely honors the fallen fire and emergency personnel from Frederick County.

Starting with known records from the local fire service, the Deaters spoke with families still in the area, called on local emergency services representatives to help, searched for obituaries, utilized, and looked at area newspaper records and state records in order to compile a completely documented file of information for the memorial. This was an effort that took over eight months of concentrated efforts by the Deaters.

In some cases it was nearly impossible to locate some of the descendents; in fact, some families had no descendants remaining, or those living today knew very little. However, with some good investigative work and many laborious hours, the information and proper contacts were pulled together. Time spent organizing the event in totality included locating photos of the fallen, compiling accurate details, following up with families, coordinating with various fire organizations locally and also at the state level, planning and coordination for the event.

Family members of the fallen, representatives of the fire companies who had a fallen member(s) and dignitaries - elected and appointed at all levels - were invited to attend the ceremony. Family members of the fallen received a Frederick County Flag, a red rose, programs and information on the Museum.

Of the twenty-three men and women honored during the ceremony, the following six were local:

Vigilant Hose Company members

Terry Myers - Date of death: February 15, 1999

Myers, age 50, was operating the pump on Engine 64 of the Vigilant Hose Company at the scene of a brush fire at Mt. St. Mary’s University when he collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack.

Firefighter Myers’ son and other firefighters attempted to revive him on the scene. He was transported to Gettysburg Hospital where attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

James "JEF" Fitzgerald - Date of death: January 10, 2013

Fitzgerald, age 70, was a past president of both the Frederick County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association and the Vigilant Hose Company of Emmitsburg. He was instrumental in the construction of the new addition to the fire station and a staunch supporter of Vigilant Hose.

Though he was no longer responding to alarms, he was still very active in the administrative duties and general upkeep of the department.

After working at the fire station, Firefighter Fitzgerald returned home and advised he was not feeling well, when he collapsed in cardiac arrest. He was transported by ambulance to Gettysburg Hospital where efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Guardian Hose Company members

Harry Root - Date of death: June 10, 1898

A large fire destroyed the Excelsior Mill in Thurmont requiring the services of Guardian Hose Company and other departments. The fire was essentially extinguished when a large boiler smokestack collapsed, striking Firefighter Harry C. Root of the Guardian Hose Company who died from his injuries.

Stanley Damuth - Date of death: July 24, 1928.

Damuth, age 21, was riding on the Guardian Hose Company engine responding to assist the Vigilant Hose Company of Emmitsburg on a fire at the William Bentz residence, about two miles southwest of Emmitsburg, when he was "hurled" from the engine and struck a road sign, crushing his skull. The engine was nearly on the scene. Despite efforts of firefighters to continue to fight the fire, the house was destroyed. Firefighter Damuth was the assistant postmaster of Thurmont.

Eugene McKissick - Date of death: December 4, 1967

While battling a barn fire on Motter Station Road near Rocky Ridge, McKissick was stricken with an apparent heart attack. He was transported by ambulance to Annie Warner Hospital in Gettysburg.

It was reported in the Frederick News Post that he was conscious upon arrival at the hospital. He was 43 years old at the time of his death.

Douglas Finneyfrock - Date of death: June 21, 1973

Finneyfrock was responding to an alarm of the Guardian Hose Company when he lost control of his vehicle and struck a utility pole on Rt. 77 in Thurmont. The roadways were rain slick as a result of a thunderstorm. He was transported to Frederick Memorial Hospital by Thurmont Ambulance and was pronounced dead. He served as trustee and driver of the Guardian Hose Company at the time of his death.

Nearly all costs for the memorial were covered by donations from businesses with minor costs covered by funds from the Museum and the Junior Fire Company #2 of Frederick. The Vigilant Hose Company helped by providing folding chairs and Flags and provided apparatus as well as Fire-Police to assist with traffic control. Additional help was received from the Junior Fire Company, the National Fire Heritage Center, the State memorial in Annapolis, the Frederick County Volunteer Fire/Rescue Association, and the Department of Fire/Rescue Services and the County Executive's Office. Many thanks and gratitude go out to all of those that made this event so memorable and special for all those who attended.

It is safe to say that the Deaters and all those involved made the ceremony and the memorial truly special.

To see the memorial for yourself, visit the Frederick County Fire Museum located at 300B South Seton Avenue in Emmitsburg, open Saturdays and Sundays April through October from noon to 4 p.m. Currently on display are various artifacts from the United Steam Fire Engine Company No. 3 and the Frederick County Fire and Rescue Service, including a 1945 Ford-American Pumper, early Emergency Medical Services and Maryland Forestry Items, parade uniforms of the ladies auxiliaries, an 1800s "Old Lady" Hand Tub Pumper and much more.

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