JFRD remembers fallen firefighters

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - More than 100 members of Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department gathered Thursday at Fire Station One downtown to remember the those who sacrificed their lives for others.

The last time someone died on the job in the department was in 2008. The first was in 1885, when the Fire Department first came about in Jacksonville.  On Thursday, JFRD held its annual ceremony to honor fallen firefighters.

IMAGES: Honoring those who served, died

Firefighters say no matter how much time passes, they won't be forgotten.

"We go to the sickest of sick patients, we're going to the tuberculous, we're going to hepatitis. Every call we go on there's a risk," Fire Chief Marty Senterfitt said.

One man at the ceremony knows the dangers firsthand. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Harry Beckham joined JFRD in 1948.

"Some people might not understand there's kind of a brotherhood between firefighters everywhere, not just here," said Beckham, a former captain who retired at age 70.

Being with the department for so long, Beckham knew many of the people on the memorial wall.

"One of them in particular lost his life saving another man's life at the shipyard," he said. "He fell back in the ship trying to help somebody out of the ship that was burning on the dry dock."

Beckham goes to the memorial every year to not just remember the fallen, but to also recall the good times.

"My best memory was the first day I started work," he said. "I enjoyed every day at the Fire Department. I didn't ever mind coming to work."

Marilyn Rodgers attended the ceremony in honor of her son, Lt. Glenn Rodgers.

"He worked one of the busiest rescue units in the city when he was alive, and he did a lot of good in the short time he was here on Earth," she said.

Rodgers' son died at age 39.

"He's always missed," she said. "It's been 13 years, but sometimes this day brings it all back."

The bell was rung for all 22 firefighters who have died on the job. There was also a 21-gun salute, wreaths placed at the memorial site, and music to pay tribute to local firefighters who gave their lives.

Senterfitt said the department also remembers those it calls the "silent deaths" -- the firefighters who died from lung cancer and other ailments from their job, like his father.

"He was dead by the age of 59, and out of the six years he was retired, four and a half he was undergoing cancer treatments and surgeries," Senterfitt said. "So often, I have to admit, it hurts my heart when people talk about lucrative fire pensions. Most firefighters never survive long enough to truly enjoy it."

These public servants not only put their lives on the line, but sacrifice holidays, a normal schedule with their family, football games and other things the average person takes for granted.

They say that to them, it's worth it.

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