They made the ultimate sacrifice in service to others. Now, the names of eight Los Angeles City firefighters are permanently etched in stone, a lasting tribute to their bravery and courage.

Surviving spouses, children, and other loved ones also were honored and acknowledged during the touching and compelling 2022 ceremony held by the International Association of Fire Fighters. Escorting these hero families, making sure they were not alone, is at the heart of what our charity’s Family Support Group and Board of Trustees do.

469 firefighters were added to the wall of honor this time. It includes those who have given their lives in the line of duty or died from duty-related illnesses. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, this was the first time it was held since 2019.

Watch as these valiant heroes are forever memorialized in the shadow of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, and our Family Support Group helps these families cope with their loss, find hope and rebuild their lives.

By Charles Stewart

Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Draws Thousands Annually

Every year, on the third Saturday of September, Colorado Springs echoes with the solemn music of bagpipes and drums as the city welcomes families from across the United States and Canada who gather to pay tribute to the fallen firefighters they loved.

The Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial’s observance ceremony, hosted by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), has been an annual tradition

since 1986. Honoring the brave souls who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice to duty, the event is one of the largest firefighter tribute ceremonies in the United States, drawing thousands of attendees each year, supported by affiliates of fire departments from both the Colorado Springs area and around the country who show up to volunteer their support.

“Colorado Springs Local 5 also plays an essential role, not just in maintaining and protecting the Memorial year-round,” explains Tim Burns, press secretary for the IAFF, “but also in hosting the thousands of grieving family members who travel to Colorado Springs from across the United States and Canada to honor their fallen.”

Families generally arrive on the Thursday or Friday before the formal ceremony and are provided shuttle service from the Colorado Springs Municipal Airport to their hotels. IAFF representatives and Local 5 members are on-hand at baggage claim to aid with luggage and transportation.

“We want to make sure these families really understand how much we care about them, and the last thing we want is for these families to come to Colorado Springs and just sit in their hotels rooms until the day of the ceremony,” says Mike Smaldino, former president, and member of Local 5.

Colorado Springs welcomes hero families

The annual observance is also a major event for Colorado Springs businesses.

“The weekend of the Fallen Fighter Memorial weekend is an important time for the entire City of Colorado Springs,” said Burns, “as downtown hotels are filled to capacity and local restaurants add staff to accommodate and welcome a surge in business.”

The memorial weekend kicks off Friday with a special reception for the families. The official ceremony takes place the following day at the Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Park, situated at the base of Pikes Peak. The centerpiece of the Memorial is bronze statue that towers seventeen feet above the attending families and observers. Titled “Somewhere Everyday,” the monument depicts a firefighter descending a ladder with a rescued child cradled in one arm. Curving around the statue is the Wall of Honor, a stately configuration of polished granite slabs etched into which are the names of every fallen IAFF member who’s passed since the organization’s inception in 1918. The Wall was erected in 1989, and reconstructed with stronger black granite in a 2016 Memorial redesign.

Wall of Honor

As of 2022, the number of names on the Wall exceeds eight thousand.

The ceremony commences with the “Ride of Honor,” a procession of fire engines led by the hundreds-strong IAFF Motorcycle Group, after which IAFF members take turns speaking the names of each newly recognized fallen firefighter. A bell then sounds, and a flag displaying the Florian cross—the official symbol of the IAFF, and internationally recognized as the Firefighter Cross—is presented to that firefighter’s family.

Fighting fires is dangerous business. Firefighters put their lives on the line each time they respond to a call, and some never make it back home. And although most firefighters will survive to retirement, many are beset by health problems, and firefighters on average live ten to fifteen fewer years than the rest of us. The Memorial honors both those who’ve died in the line of duty as well as firefighters who’ve succumbed to occupational diseases. For the loved ones who attend, this annual observance is a profoundly emotional experience, and salutes their late loved ones with the dignity, respect, and gravitas their valor deserves.

By Paul Haynes

Learn more about The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), a labor union representing paid full-time firefighters and emergency medical services personnel in the United States and Canada.

Watch the full memorial here.

Read more about the memorial.

View 2022 IAFF Memorial Photo Album