In late October, I performed a duty no one ever wants to; I attended a line of duty funeral for Fire Chief Eddie Johnson, Jr. in Alton, Missouri. This was my first LODD as the Acting Fire Marshal and hopefully my last. Listening to the service, it was readily apparent Chief Johnson was dedicated to his community. While employed by the local school district, Chief Johnson decided to return to school to become a law enforcement officer, serving as a county deputy and city police officer. He became a volunteer for the fire department and later assumed the duties as the fire chief. From the stories told by those attending the funeral, I learned he was also a proud husband and father. As I met his family at the funeral service I was again reminded just how dangerous this calling can be.
It is with great sadness that today I learned of a law enforcement line of duty death in Cedar County. While details are still forthcoming, I ask that everyone keep the family of Deputy Matthew Chism in their thoughts.
In my previous newsletter articles, I asked our responders to keep safe. Those were not meant to be hollow words, but to serve as a reminder we have a duty to return from the call. This responsibility to return encompasses not only our duty to family and friends, but also to our community. The death of any emergency responder leaves a void in their community which cannot be filled.
The National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation offers training opportunities such as Everyone Goes Home, a program designed to prevent firefighter line-of-duty deaths and injuries. The Division supports this program and I would ask you to consider hosting this training in your communities. Information about the program may be found at www.everyonegoeshome.com.
The Division’s public education program has proven to be very successful. With the acquisition of a Sparky the Fire Dog prop, we will be expanding our public education outreach. If your department is planning a sizeable public safety event, please feel free to contact Deputy Chief Eric Lewis regarding the availability of our staff to assist you.
The holiday season is swiftly approaching. We know home fires experience an uptick due to the use of candles and holiday lighting, along with the increased use of cooking and heating appliances. With visitors in our homes and communities, this may be a good time to start pushing out our holiday safety messages. The NFPA offers many valuable public education resources on their website; www.nfpa.org.
As the winter months approach, our responders will be subject to adverse conditions such as extreme cold and winter weather driving conditions as they perform their duties. Please take a moment before you respond to any call to consider your duty to return home. Stay safe.
Assistant State Fire Marshal