Peoria firefighters honor those fallen

By Chad Weber

October 14, 2012 Updated Oct 26, 2013 at 12:54 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- "Thank you for this opportunity to remember and reflect on the lives of these 16 individuals who gave the ultimate sacrifice," said Battalion Chief Phillip Maclin in a prayer.

Sixteen men since 1888 have died on duty as Peoria firefighters. Their names are a constant reminder of the danger associated with the profession.

"When that bell rings and we go out and jump in those trucks, we know every single time we put our lives on the line," said Peoria Fire Chief Kent Tomblin.

The last Peoria firefighter to die in the line of duty was Butch Gudat nearly 30 years ago. It was then when a building caved in on him during a massive structure fire.

Firefighters say it's those heroes like Butch who help spread awareness of the need for better safety procedures and equipment.

"Those that have died before us have actually given a cause and a reason for people to go out and to study fire departments," said Peoria Fire Local 50 Secretary Steve Rada. "To make advancements in the technology to not only make ourselves safer but to allow us to go into dangerous situations and make the citizens safer."

Illinois State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis said this year in Illinois, one firefighter has been killed while on duty. He says that's one too many.

"My job is to try and drive those numbers down to zero and I'm doing the best I can," said Makaitis.

To conclude the ceremony, a bell was sounded three times representing the last alarm to those fallen going home.

"Remember that that's what we do," said Chief Tomblin. "We put our lives on the line everyday and we want to get that in the back of our head."

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