Forty-nine years ago, a tank truck carrying 8,000 gallons of gasoline overturned on the Anthony Wayne Trail and sparked one of the worst fires in Toledo history that killed four firefighters and severely burned several others.
Those men who answered their last alarm on June 10, 1961, were remembered yesterday during the fire department's annual memorial service to their fallen comrades at the Last Alarm Memorial in Chub DeWolfe Park, across from the No. 1 fire station downtown.
Among those who were present to honor the city's bravest was the son of Firefighter Ueckert Fred Sperber, who was severely burned in the blaze now commonly called "the Trail fire."
"I think it was just wonderful to honor all the fallen firefighters who devoted their lives to our safety, like my father did," Ken Sperber said. "For my father, being a firefighter was his whole life."
Also present was Margery Cousino of Temperance, whose father, Edward Stapleton, died in the line of duty Jan. 1, 1953.
"The fire department is a big family and after all these years, being brought in to honor Dad, you get that sense of family," Mrs. Cousino said.
With the American flag flapping in the breeze above, the two helped Fire Chief Mike Wolever place a wreath at the base of the Last Alarm Memorial.
The somber service included the reading of the names of all 45 of Toledo's fallen firefighters and six who died in World War II.
"It's important to remember those who made a sacrifice and it's important for the families to know that we remember them and honor them," Chief Wolever said after the ceremony. "It's important that the firefighters stay with the tradition."
Mayor Mike Bell, a former firefighter who was the city's fire chief and then state fire marshal, delivered the keynote address.
"The memorial service and the bagpipes brings back a lot of memories that you have witnessed in your career and it reenforces your dedication that you ensure these people go home safe," Mr. Bell said.
Earlier in the day, Chief Wolever presented awards to the department's Engine Company No. 5 and two members of the department for demonstrating exemplary service in the performance of their duties as a firefighter and/or paramedic.
Capt. Thomas Lewandowski was given the department's Lifesaving Award for his actions Dec. 4, 2009, when he pulled a mother from a burning home.
Lt. Ron Kay was honored for intervening April 6, 2009, with a cardiac patient and convincing the man to seek medical help that saved his life.
Civilian lifesaving awards were presented to Aaron Stewart, Ernest Persely, Ed Mims, Megan Williamson, and Eileen Juvinall.
In addition, Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre announced that he would promote five officers during a ceremony scheduled for 9 a.m. today.
Officers Thomas LaForge, James Cornell, Corey Russell, Tyson Coates, and Robert Lee Furr, Jr., will be promoted to the rank of sergeant.
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