On Sunday, October 18 at the Wesley Bolin Plaza in downtown Phoenix, a member of the Salt River Fire Department, Battalion Chief Frank Molina was one of the 119 Firefighters and paramedics that were memorialized at the dedication of the Arizona Fallen Firefighter and Paramedics Memorial. Molina’s name was inscribe and unveiled at the ceremony during the hour and half long event, which included all the pomp and circumstance fitting for such an honored occasion.
Firefighter Molina’s wife, Therese Molina stated, “I heard about [the memorial] from Salt River Fire Department and I heard about the fund raising that took place; I didn’t actually realize his name would be on the memorial … However, we found out his name would be added, we are really, really honored.”
The family shared some additional comments. Cienna, his daughter was very young when her father passed on, but, she said, “I remember his deep voice.” His son, Lucas has made the decision to go into the forestry division. He shared, “I basically remember the things he taught me. How to be a good person, to be diligent in everything that you do.”
The Salt River Fire Department honor guard had a prominent role in the dedication and memorial ceremony as SRFD Honor Guard Commander and Community member, Ray Martinez was one of few firefighters honored to read a portion of the names enshrined on the memorial. Various SRFD honor guard members carried the SRMPIC tribal flag, the SRFD flag and the firefighter axe during the ceremony.
Martinez stated, “I came on board at SRFD in 2000, and I knew Frank when I was a [youth] Explorer; I have known Frank since I was 14 years old. I remember so many things about him; one of the main things was the drive and motivation that he had for the department and the Community. To see someone who was not a Community member, want to see so many [positive] things happen in the department was [inspiring]. He was a guy that cared a lot about the Community, the place I come from; this really sticks with me the most.”
As each name was read, two sets of bells rung and honor guard personnel dipped their flag to honor each firefighter or paramedic. The first name read was a firefighter from Tucson fire who died in 1902, and every preceding year thereafter when a firefighter or paramedic was lost until all 119 names were read. In addition, the name of battalion fire chief Corey Lawton of the Gila River Fire Department, who died in 2006 was among listed.
A significantly among the names read, there were nine U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs firefighters many who were Native American. Overall, Chairman of the Arizona Fallen Fire Fighters & Paramedic Memorial Commission, Rick DeGraw stated “There were 13 fallen firefighters who are either Native American or were a part of tribal or Bureau of Indian Affairs fire departments.” One of the artists who designed some of the bronze statues at the memorial, Paul Olesniewicz stated he modeled one of the wildland fighter statues based on Native American women fighters.
Honor guard commander Gordon Cunningham stated the firefighters are steeped in tradition, and the firefighters follow specific protocols, which include sounding the bell. This is done to begin their shift, as well as throughout the day and night when a fire alarm is sounded the bell is rung to summon firefighters to fight fires and risk their lives; when the fire is put out it is the bell that signified their completion of duties and signals them to return to quarters.
On this day, 3 tolls of the two sets of bells rung to signify the completion of duties and the return to quarters, as well as the playing of taps was conducted as the last honored symbol for the memorialized. The bell ceremony mark the last bell for those who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Former Arizona Governor Janice K. Brewer, a strong supporter and the governor who signed the legislation for the memorial, along with Chairman Rick DeGraw laid the memorial wreath at the base of the bell tower while the song Amazing Grace was played.
The wildland (hotshot) firefighter and the fire fighter prayers were read; thereafter, the bag pipe groups played and left the area and the honor guards marched out as well; families members and friends were given time to place a small Arizona flags next to the names of their fallen firefighter or paramedic, and it was evident everyone was engulfed with pride and solidarity.