TOP STORY >> Cabot is home to firefighters memorial
By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer
The Arkansas Fallen Firefighters memorial statue arrived in Cabot Saturday on a flat-bed trailer escorted along West Main Street with the blaring sirens and the flashing lights of fire trucks from nine area fire departments.
For this week, the 6,000 pound, 11.6-foot tall statue at the First Security Bank parking lot on 205 West Pine Street. On Saturday, the statue will be moved onto the street for CabotFest. Afterward, the statue will be transported to Batesville before it’s taken to its permanent home at the state Capitol. The statue has been displayed at different locations around the state to raise awareness about firefighter safety and to raise money for the memorial.
“We are building the memorial for the families of the survivors to assure them the people of Arkansas care about the legacy of the fallen firefighters who died in the line of duty serving the citizens of Arkansas,” Arkansas Fallen Firefighters Memorial chairman Johnny Reep said.
Reep said funding for the firefighters memorial must be secured before construction can begin on the Capitol grounds. If the fundraising efforts are successful, Reep hopes to break ground in January or February 2010 and have the memorial dedication by year’s end.
Several members of the Cabot Fire Department were on hand to view the statue along with municipal and volunteer firefighters from Cato, Austin, North Pulaski, Tri Community, Mountain Springs, Campground, Sylvania and Mount Zion (CSZ), Ward and South Bend fire departments.
Cabot firefighter Greg Hale said, “It honors the people here in Arkansas that have given their lives in the line of duty. I like the project because everyone can contribute. It is going to be at the Capitol where everyone can see.”
Training officer Charles Hawkins of the Cato Volunteer Fire Department has a personal connection to the memorial. “I had a best friend, Brian Ritcher, out of Pottsville (Volunteer Fire Department), who is going to be on the memorial,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said it is an honor to be a full-time or volunteer firefighter and the memorial is way to honor the fallen.
“It means a lot,” Hawkins said.
South Bend firefighter Brenda Kuykendall said, “I became involved with the memorial because it is an appreciation for those of us still living to honor our brothers.
“It is an opportunity for future generations to see what the profession means to us,” Kuykendall said.
The bronze statue, made of 95-percent copper, cost $307,170 to build. Around $275,000 is needed to complete and maintain the $680,320 memorial plaza at the Capitol.
When completed, the statue will be placed in the center of the memorial plaza. The plaza will be 70 feet by 50 feet and have an amphitheater.
The four firefighters represented on the statue represent the phases of firefighting from its origins to today.
“The tall man is called ol’ leather lungs. He represents the initial phase of firefighting in Arkansas just after the Civil War. He has no gloves or breathing apparatus,” Reep said.
Water will flow out a nozzle held by ol’ leather lungs and to create a fountain effect. “Fountain of Faith” is planned to be named for Win Rockefeller, who donated $100,000 to the memorial.
To the right of ol’ leather lungs is a representation of a modern firefighter.
He has a breathing apparatus on his back and is wearing the newest protective clothing.
On the left is a female firefighter cradling a child. She is also a paramedic.
According to Reep, she represents the drastic increase of the number of alarms after the Vietnam War era for emergency medical calls and rescues.
The fourth figure is a state and federal wildland firefighter. He has a chainsaw and a Pulaski tool. He is wearing chainsaw chaps to protect himself and a smoke jumpers’ screen mesh on his helmet to protect his face from tree limbs.
As of 2007, there were 97 fallen firefighters planned to be honored at the memorial.
There are three from area fire departments who died in the line of duty.
They are Dania Stivers of the North Pulaski Fire Department, who died on May 12, 1995; Robert Pemberton of the Antioch Fire Department, who died on April 26, 1996, and Louis Caraccoilo of the South Bend Volunteer Fire Department who died on Nov. 11, 1989.
After it’s moved from Cabot, the Arkansas Fallen Firefighters Memorial statue will be on display in Beebe for a week starting on Saturday, Oct. 24.