GALLIPOLIS — First responders run to the danger. They are, in many respects, a literal and figurative wall between uncertainty and safety.
Now, a literal wall has been erected at the Gallipolis Fire Department, memorializing that sacrifice.
The Gallipolis Fire Department’s Memorial Wall was recently dedicated at a ceremony with firefighters and their families, city officials, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #4464’s Honor Guard and the public, in attendance.
Gallipolis Fire Chief Keith Elliott explained the purpose of the wall during the ceremony.
“The purpose of this memorial wall is threefold,” he said. “First as an everlasting memorial to those who have served the citizens of Gallipolis by being a member of the Gallipolis Fire Department, whether it be past, present or future. Second, to remember the past fire chiefs of the department and thirdly, and most importantly, to memorialize those firefighters, who during their service with the Gallipolis Fire Department, have given their last full measure of devotion to the citizens of Gallipolis.”
Elliott then stated the bricks within the walkway were to honor firefighters of the Gallipolis Fire Department, past, present and future members.
“Intermingled in the walkway are bricks representing our firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty,” he said. “It is our hope that future generations of Gallipolis firefighters will add their names to this honorable walkway.”
The walkway leads to a small pavilion, this pavilion contains the names of the department members in 2018, who were instrumental in the building of the memorial. In addition, Elliott explained surrounding the pavilion are the names of all known fire chiefs who served the City of Gallipolis.
“Many are not aware that Gallipolis has been protected from the horrors of fire by three separate fire departments in her history,” Elliott said. “From the first known firefighting unit known as the Cerces Fire Department established in 1834 under the leadership of Alexander Vance and operated until 1845, to the unknown fire chiefs of the famous Gallipolis Bucket Brigade that operated from 1847 to 1861, to the fire chiefs of what we now know as the Gallipolis Fire Department that was established in 1861. We felt the encirclement or surrounding of the pavilion by former and future chiefs was not only essential but proper.”
Elliott told those gathered the wall had two “simple” but “important” symbols, including a bell and a stone simply inscribed with the words “Fire Department.”
“The bell, is a symbol of firefighting past,” Elliott said. “The sound of a bell holds a special significance for firefighters. Historically, the toll of a bell summoned members to the station, signaled the beginning of a shift, notified departments of a call for help, and indicated when a fire call was completed and the unit had returned to the station.
“In years past, when a firefighter died in the line of duty, fire departments would sound a special toll of the bell, 5-5-5-5; a series of five rings for four times to alert their fellow firefighters that one of their own had paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Elliott explained the tradition continues and is observed at funerals and memorial services for firefighters and retired firefighters.
As for the stone, it was previously located at the former fire station above the bay doors at 518 Second Avenue.
“This stone witnessed several fire chiefs walk through her doors and countless new firefighters join our ranks,” Elliott said. “This simple stone stood guard as horse drawn pumpers responded to fires throughout Gallipolis. This stone watched as our brave horses gave way to a mechanized fire department. With the razing of the old fire station, this stone was rescued and inspired the building of a new memorial wall. This stone now stands guard over the most important portion of the pavilion, the memorial stones of our fallen firefighters — Lawrence Barry, Richard Long and Gregory Northup.”
Lt. John Elliott and Firefighter Dean Mays then rang the memorial bell, with a series of five rings.
Also speaking at the ceremony and expressing their thanks and support for the firefighters were Gallipolis City Manager Ted Lozier, President of the Gallipolis City Commission Cody Caldwell and City Commissioner Tony Gallagher.
In addition to raising the flags, the VFW Post #4464 honor guard provided a 21-gun salute and a bugler played Taps.
Chaplain Bob Hood offered the invocation with Chaplain Kevin Plantz delivered the closing prayer.
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Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.