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Honoring fallen firefighters

This is the proposed design for the Minnesota Fire Service Foundation Memorial to be built near the state Capitol. Alexandria Fire Department donated $1,500 from its relief association to help build the memorial. Drawing Contributed | Leo A. Daly Architects1 / 3
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Alexandria Fire Department is part of a statewide effort to build a memorial for firefighters killed in the line of duty.

The Minnesota Fire Service Foundation is coordinating the memorial project to be built on the state Capitol grounds. The group has exceeded its fundraising goal, with more than $600,000 in donations and pledges - all from firefighters.

Alexandria Fire Department donated $1,500 from its relief association.

Shane Schmidt, Alexandria's former fire chief, is president of the Minnesota State Fire Department Association (MSFDA) - the organization represents the state's 20,000 firefighters and offers training, education, benefits and more.

"It's exciting," Schmidt said about MSFDA partnering on the memorial project. "We're doing this for firefighters, by firefighters. This is the first time we'll have something at the Capitol."

Schmidt said the memorial will likely be done by fall with a dedication ceremony in late-September or early-October.

"We're hoping to have thousands of firefighters and families [in St. Paul] for that dedication," Schmidt said. "We've also asked the governor and a few other dignitaries to show up for it."

Alexandria Fire Department's new honor guard may have the opportunity to participate in that ceremony.

THE MEMORIAL

The memorial will feature a large roof-like structure supported by a field of inscribed columns representing Minnesota's 194 fire fighters killed in the line of duty. A statue at the center of the memorial stands posed to climb skyward, rescuing a child.

Alexandria Fire Chief Jeff Karrow said he's impressed with the way that natural light and water are incorporated into the design.

"I think it's a great, great thing for firefighters," Karrow said. "It's a moving monument [design]. It's very respectful and a good tribute."

The structure was also designed to allow rainwater to create a wall of water around the firefighter statue at the center of the memorial.

"Most of the time a fallen firefighter went in trying to save someone or save property. Anytime you have something like that, I think it's important for us to honor them. You've got to keep their name alive and help their family through those times," Schmidt said.

Alexandria Fire Department has not lost a firefighter in the line of duty in recent history, according to local Fire Marshal Dennis Stark. The department does have a plaque at the fire hall honoring six firefighters who have died while they were active members of AFD.

The department also has its own firefighter monument. Every firefighter that has served on the Alexandria Fire Department is listed on the monument located outside the fire hall on 3rd Avenue.

Follow Amy Chaffins on Twitter at @TheOsakisReview.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133
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