KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Several fallen East Tennessee firefighters who died in the line of duty will be honored at a national memorial service.
Every year, thousands gather in Emmitsburg Maryland for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s memorial service. There are several east Tennessee firefighters who will be honored during the ceremony.
“Every time we answer the call, it’s always a wild card. We never know what call we’re going on. We think we know, but every call is different,” said Knoxville Fire Department Chaplain Paul Trumpore.
Firefighters put their lives on the line responding to those calls. Sometimes, they lose their lives, and it’s their sacrifices that are honored by The National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation.
“It usually memorializes about 100 firefighters a year,” Trumpore said. “This year we have 148. We’ve had a lot from COVID in the past two years.”
This past year, two East Tennessee firefighters died from COVID-19 that they may have caught in the line of duty.
Trumpore explained, “Ronald Gene Spitzer from Rocky Top Fire Department. He died a year ago last January, and also, a year ago last January, we had John H. Clift at Rural Metro Fire Department.” Spitzer was 65.
Regarding Spitzer, Trumpore said, “I helped to teach public fire education in the school system up in Anderson County as a guest a couple of years ago and so I taught with him.”
Clift was 64. Trumpore said he worked with him as well,
“I actually worked with him many years ago when I worked in the county. Always very loving, very giving, very supportive of people.”
Trumpore said his job is to make sure all of our East Tennessee firefighters are honored at the national memorial. While going through files he found one missing name from several decades ago.
“30 years ago, we had a man by the name of James White, he worked for the Tennessee division of forestry. He lived in Briceville, Tennessee, which is also in Anderson county, and he died of a massive stroke after some brush fires they’d been fighting.”
Now Trumpore says White won’t be forgotten along with the rest of our East Tennessee fire heroes. Trumpore adds that a total of five Tennessee firefighters will be honored.
The national memorial service will take place on October 8 – 9. Family members of the fallen will be escorted by east Tennessee firefighters. Thousands are expected to attend the event.
Robert L. Blankenship is one of several East Tennessee firefighters who’ve already been honored at the memorial. Blankenship was a captain at Knoxville Fire Department and died in 2003 due to a heart attack while on the job. He was 55 years old.