PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD)– On Thursday, Peoria firefighters held their annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial.
The memorial honors Peoria Firefighters who have lost their lives while serving their community. Firefighters marched up Jefferson Street Thursday afternoon, escorted by a fire truck and Peoria Police. They marched to Peoria City Hall, where a memorial stands with the names of all the Peoria firemen who have died while on the job.
Battalion Chief Thomas Stimeling read all the names of the fallen Peoria firefighters. A bell was also rang three times to honor them and their work. Peoria Fire Chief Shawn Sollberger also said a few words at the ceremony.
The last Peoria firefighter to lose his life on the job was Vernon “Butch” Gudat in 1983. Chief Sollberger says Gudat’s family has continued to be a pillar in the Peoria fire community.
“They’ve established a scholarship fund that we give away in January. We recognize January 23rd every single year and we go to the site every single year. Think about that; it’s been 40 years ago. They were just children when that happened, and they are still dedicated to memorializing their father helping the Peoria Fire Department and helping the surrounding community.”
Chief Sollberger also says that it being 40 years since the last time a firefighter has died on the job, shows how dedicated Peoria firefighters are every single day.
“I think it shows the dedication that not even me in this capacity we’re talking boots on the ground the firefighters that are in the fire stations responding to these calls educating and training themselves and putting themselves in the most safe environments but still knowing that there’s inherent dangers.”
He goes on to say, “We go on 21,000 calls a year, and that’s not to dramatize that. It happens 9-1-1 calls happen every single day almost 100 a day. Our firefighters are dedicated to providing the best level of safe service. It’s not just providing a service it’s providing safe service.”
Chief Sollberger says the training tower at the training facility on Galena Road is named after Vernon “Butch” Gudat.