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Honoring fallen firefighters, both near and far posted on 07/01/2022

The bell ceremony is a fire service funeral tradition that reflects respect and honor for a deceased firefighter. Throughout history, the tolling of a bell has been used to summon and give direction to firefighters during alarms and to signal the beginning and the end of service. The funeral bell acts as a ceremonial last call and signifies the end of duty for departed firefighters.

 

In her role as State Commander of the Oregon Fire Service Honor Guard (OFSHG), Hoodland Firefighter Amanda Schmitt leads the volunteer organization as they provide funeral services, including the bell service and flag presentation, and pay tribute to firefighters as they are laid to rest across the state.

On June 9 the Honor Guard held a public ceremony honoring Oregon firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2021, at the Fallen Firefighter Memorial Wall in Salem. Schmitt also led the Honor Guard in providing funeral services for retired Hoodland firefighter and volunteer Larry Morgan on June 11 at the Church on the Mountain in Welches.

The OFSHG was established in 1998 to provide traditional fire service funeral honors in rural parts of the state that lacked Honor Guard resources. At the time there were no Honor Guard resources for the rural fire service agencies in Oregon when one of their current or retired members died.

“That’s who we serve really, the small rural districts,” Schmitt said. “The state fire service realized there was a need for the honor and traditions of the fire service at funerals throughout the state.”

The mission of the Honor Guard is to honor the fire service traditions and remember those who have fallen, while providing support for their grieving families. The Honor Guard has specific ceremonial protocols for line-of-duty deaths, active-duty deaths and retired-member deaths.

The organization coordinates with the family and will only provide the portion of the ceremonial service the family desires.

At the June 9 public ceremony four new names of fire service professionals that died in the line of duty in 2021 were added to the memorial wall. All families were in attendance and were able to witness the honors given to the fallen firefighters.

The Oregon Fallen Firefighters Memorial is located at the Oregon Public Safety Academy, in Salem. The memorial was dedicated in 2006 and lists the names of 174 firefighters who have lost their life in the line of duty in the state since 1881.

Closer to home Schmitt performed funeral services for retired Hoodland firefighter Larry Morgan on June 11.

Morgan proudly served his community as a volunteer firefighter/EMS from 1993 until 2017 and in retirement on Hoodland’s Volunteer Support Group.

“(Morgan) was instrumental in cooking and feeding the firefighters whenever there were major calls and also at fire department functions when all the families could gather together,” Schmitt said.

“His family was also a big part of the fire department and his son Phil also volunteered for a time. Family is priority and the fire department is usually just an extension of a larger family unit,” she added.

At Morgan’s service the honor performed the bell ceremony, presented a folded flag to his wife as well as a ceremonial challenge coin and his helmet to the family.

Schmitt has served in a volunteer role as OFSHG State Commander for nine years and has volunteered as a member on the OFSHG team since 2001.

Schmitt has also served the mountain communities as a volunteer Firefighter with the Hoodland Fire District (HFD) since 2000.

More information about the OFSHG is available online at http://www.ofshg.org. More info about HFD can be found at https://www.hoodlandfire.us/.

By Ben Simpson/MT

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