When the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service is held Sunday in Emmitsburg, Maryland, they’ll honor 98 men and five women from 36 states who died while fighting fires.
One of those is Lt. Steven Hagan, Sr. of the Blenheim Fire Department in Marlboro County, who died just two days before Christmas of last year. Hagan had a heart attack while dealing with a vehicle accident.
Blenheim Fire Chief David Rogers, who has served the department for 32 years, says Lt. Hagan was a tremendous asset to his community as well as the fire department.
Rogers says being a volunteer firefighter is a tough, sometimes thankless job. “You’ve got to have your heart in it. You’re on call 24/7, and you’re called out you don’t know what it’s going to entail. You don’t know if you’re going to see your family again.”
Rogers says volunteer firefighters support each other and the community. “I pick at our members, saying I don’t have one child, but I’ve got 30. We’re close-knit. And it’s the same anywhere. You have to trust your brothers and sisters and trust that they’re going to do the right thing and be there for you.”
And that 30-member family now includes five women, who Chief Rogers says are truly dedicated to the cause.
Rogers says his close friend’s fatal heart attack points out that it’s a very stressful job, if even a volunteer job. He says when the alarm goes off, the adrenaline level of all firefighters goes way up, and Hagan never had a chance to let his drop back down.
But Lt. Hagan’s legacy lives on. His son, by the same name, has been with the Blenheim VFD for a few years.
Hagan had been voted Firefighter of the year by the department in 2007. During 2008, 103 firefighters died in the US in the line of duty.
Sunday’s ceremony will be attended by more than 5,000 people, including some members of Congress, and including families of the fallen firefighters, who will each receive flags that were flown over the US Capitol and the National Memorial.
The event marks the beginning of National Fire Prevention Week.