RIP Ed Stringer and Corey Ankum

My Union and my Fire Department in the years past have started a tradition that I would encourage everyone to consider for their own area. When multiple firefighters die in the line of duty, our Union pays to fly and lodge two of our members to the represented city. Our fire department supports us by allowing guys the time off which is very helpful considering we fly out within days of the LODD happening. So a Thank You goes out to both of them.

I have attended my fair share of fire department funerals just in my own state, both multiple firefighter deaths from fire scenes and single non fire related deaths. Whatever the scenario, it does not matter. They all died from something related to our trade, and they all left families behind. When you have hundreds or even thousands of firefighters show up from around your state you can see the impact that it has on the families. You can see the realization that their husbands were part of something bigger than those families may have ever been aware of. The realization that firefighters would travel from around the country to honor someone they never knew simply because we shared the same beliefs of our chosen trade. Something discouraging however is the relatively small representation of firefighters that show up, compared to the thousands of them that are within a few hours driving distance to the services.

It was a good turnout in Chicago, I would guess each funeral had 1500 to 2000 show up just from the City, and another three or four hundred from out of town. I met some great guys from Chicago and around the country. In between the funerals we had a chance to talk a fair amount about the fire that killed these guys and some topics that arise with fires involving LODD’s.  I want to say thanks to Nate Demarse for taking time out of his day to drive us around the neighborhood and for taking us by the scene of the fire. It was a good reminder that things are not always as they appear. The fire building was much smaller than I had pictured by the photos. There was very little signs of smoke or fire damage in the back of the building where the collapse occurred. The front of the building looked no more run down or dilapidated than most of its surrounding buildings, or for that matter every other building on that street. 

Where am I going with this? Well I don’t get into a lot of my own opinion on this website and stick mainly to basics of our craft. However it’s getting hard to swallow the amount of people I hear, or see commenting online about this fire with no other intentions then saying they were wrong to go in that building. With no depth, or facts on their side they simply slander the names of these two by repeatedly saying to others “They shouldnt have been in there”. How can anyone throw that out there, especially if you were not at this fire?

On my way back to the Hotel in Downtown Chicago I had numerous homeless people yell “Thanks”, “Thanks For Caring” or “I’m Sorry” as I walked by. All they saw was what my Class A uniform represents, they had no clue I was from out of town. But what one of them specifically did know was the fact that the Chicago Firefighters would search for them, the homeless, the class of society that many may ignore. He had heard that the FD had gotten reports of squatters in the building, and was taken back by the fact that they would try to come in and get them. They were searching for them the same way they would search for an upper class family in a 5000 square foot mansion, or a blue collar family in a middle class bungalow.

Driving around the neighborhood of the fire made it very clear to me that there was a huge population of transient people in the area, and to go along with them there was hundreds, or more likely thousands of boarded up buildings. This was a “norm” in this area. Boarded up or vacant buildings is a normal part of the landscape in this part of Chicago. What will you find in them?  Homeless people lighting warming fires in the winter to survive. When this argument comes up I have heard people claim that these squatters are in there illegally in the first place, to me this is not a valid point. We don’t have the privilege of deciding who is in the right and who is in the wrong, that is why the FD has such a great love from the citizens. Because everyone is equal when the bells go off and we try to search for someone. It doesn’t matter if you are trespassing in a vacant building, or illegally have 12 people living in a 2 bed apartment, or your running drugs out of your house. Everyone is equally as important, which is why the original point is not valid. 

I am not writing a long winded article on what we should search, when and why. But I am saying I think it is horrible how fast “our own” will second guess, and monday morning quarterback our fallen without good intent. I say good intent because there is a difference in someone who wants to learn as much as they can from these fires and learn from others experiences as compared to someone who knows just enough about the fire to say I can’t believed they entered a vacant.

To wrap this up I think it is ironic how it seems most of the people that constantly have stuff to say about the faults of our fallen firefighters tactics and are quick to question the actions of every LODD fire are typically not found at these funerals in support of the department who has just lost them. So in honor of the ones of who have gone before us, I would hope you would try to make the next LODD death that is in your area, and to remember that we don’t know what happened at these fires strictly off news reports and online commentary.

Here is a brief news article on a fire in Chicago involving homeless that were rescued. This occurred very shortly after the fatal fire.      News Link

 

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10 Comments on “RIP Ed Stringer and Corey Ankum”

  1. Jason Nicholaou Says:

    That’s a great thing your department does, wish mine had the ability to send guys out to support our fallen brothers like that. It’s always amazing to think about how deep the brotherhood really runs in the fire service. RIP Brothers


    • It is a big cost to take on for any Union or FD, which is understandable. I am sure though that I would see your face at a local LODD funeral in your area just from the few times we have met.

  2. Tim Says:

    Very well put!!


  3. Like you said, it’s a shame when firemen begin throwing rocks about incidents they’ve heard about without finding out the entire story. Great post, keep up the good work!

  4. GaryLane Says:

    Great write up bro! Nice to have a department and union that offers that type of support. The people come first as a priority… employees, homeless, black, white, rich, poor…doesnt matter….

  5. bf231 Says:

    Very well put. RIP to the fallen and their families.

  6. Matt Fullerton Says:

    Thanks for the article and the pictures. I know how easy it is to sit around the kitchen table and call out another FD based on limited info. I would encourage everyone who owns a Class A to travel to the next LODD funeral you hear about.

  7. Ben Stafford Says:

    Great read. I forwarded it on to my crew.

    That’s awesome you guys do that for LODD’s. This is something I will certainly consider proposing to my union.

  8. Lynch Says:

    One of the reasons that our local and department are so supportive during line of duty deaths is that we are the host city and local for the IAFF fallen firefighter memorial wall. The ceremony is held annually on the third Saturday of September. I would encourage all firefighters (union, volunteer, career, part-time, seasonal, etc.) to attend this event. It is a humbling and somber reminder of the risks we take on a daily basis. 

  9. Trevor Says:

    Very well put. Thank you for going out to Chicago and representing not only IAFF LOCAL 5, but the fire service in general. Showing support to the families who have lost a loved one in the line of duty is the most important thing that we as a fire family can do. Support like that is what sets us apart from most other professions in the world. I would personally like to say my thanks to the fire service family as well. As many of my fellow firefighters know, my father, a 30 year veteran of the fire service and a current Fire Captain here suffered a massive heart attack while our members were out supporting other families in a time of need. Thankfully he survived, but only by the skin of his teeth. Though he did not die, the support shown to my family and the continued support that everyone continues to give is amazing. What I’m trying to say is that supporting your fellow firefighters is important. But supporting their families is equally important. Keep it up. Do it every chance you get. I know from expierencing it first hand that nothing is more comforting that seeing your brothers show up to the hospital late into the evening to be there for you.


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