For more than ten years the committee has been working toward a permanent memorial. Now they're only $50,000 short to support families who lost a loved one protecting our communities.
To honor the 99 firefighters who paid the ultimate sacrifice, volunteers are hosting the second annual Boot Fest to raise money for the Arkansas Fallen Firefighters Memorial.
Retired Wynne Fire Chief Clay Whaley says, "When you walk up to a memorial and there is your loved ones name on it, you get a feeling of fulfillment and firefighters don't have that."
In 1997, Whaley's fire department lost three men in a West Helena explosion; one man was his cousin, the other a close friend, all bonded by a brotherhood.
He continues, "It was a tremendous loss, not just to me as a family member, but it was a tremendous loss to the city of West Helena."
Being a firefighter is not just a job but who they are. When they answer the call and risk their life to save a stranger in need, their sacrifice has gone unanswered.
Johnny Reep is the Fallen Firefighters' Memorial Chair. He says, "That's the real purpose of the memorial letting those families and children know their loved one has not been forgotten."
The complete project cost about $1.1 million. They are lacking about $50,000 and hope to have the groundbreaking this October at the Capitol.
Reep explains what the statue represents: "They are four images of four phases of fire fighting. In the center you have leather lungs that goes back to the days when you had no mask. We have a female firefighter paramedic holding a child doing CPR. In the back you have a forest fire ranger. Then you have the modern fire fighter with full equipment."
Unfortunately more names will be added through the years, but it will be a place where folks can pay their respect to those who gave their all.
Whaley adds, "It's going to be a euphoria-type atmosphere. You're going to feel elated you got it built, but you're also going to feel sad because you know those individuals who have names there."
Once the memorial is ready, there will be an annual service every year to add names. It will also have an amphitheatre where they will teach fire safety.
After a nearly five month struggle, David Curlin passes away
Volunteers Help Fill The Boot At Boot Fest For Arkansas' Fallen Firefighters