Honor · Tradition
As pioneers settled in small towns and villages across Nebraska, the shout of "Fire" summoned fear and panic in every person who heard it. If they were lucky, bucket brigades could save part of a burning building and its surrounding structures.
By 1860, seven years before Nebraska became a state, the Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company was established to keep the City of Omaha safe in case of fire. These dedicated volunteers went from using hand-drawn to horse-drawn fire wagons and pumpers. In 1878, five volunteer firefighters were killed in the Grand Central Hotel fire in downtown Omaha. Due to this tragedy, and the continued growth of the city's business, industry and overall population, Omaha's leaders soon realized the need for a professional firefighting force. By 1877, Omaha was large enough to establish a full time paid professional fire department.
At the turn of the century, the need to address worker's rights and job safety created the labor movement throughout the United States. This was also the case for professional firefighters in Omaha. In 1902, the first organized labor union was formed as the Paid Fireman's Association Local 110. It was later reorganized in 1934 as a chapter of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 385. This union, like its previous incarnations, has become the firefighters' collective voice working to attain and maintain a meaningful say in creating a profession where firefighters could earn a living and support a family with honor and dignity.
From such humble beginnings grew Omaha's current modern fire service. Today, the Omaha Fire Department is second to none when it comes to fire suppression, fire prevention, fire investigation, technical rescue, emergency medical services, and professional training.
Firefighting is a vocation. The brave men and women who enter it are trained to go into dangerous, difficult and unforgiving situations. Their workplace is challenging, perilous, and has little margin for error. Firefighters understand that when the alarm sounds, they are putting their lives on the line, and they must depend upon one another. They know that any one of them may not return. This monument serves as a solemn reminder, to all who serve, of their own mortality.
This memorial was first conceived by the men and women of International Association of Firefighters Local 385. It was created as a tribute to those who have answered their final alarm. These brave firefighters served with dignity, integrity, and courage. It stands to honor now, and for all time, as remembrance of their ultimate sacrifice, and the sacrifice of their families, so they may never be forgotten.
"Firemanship is a peculiar vocation steeped in tradition. The man who joins just to have a job shouldn't be a fireman. There's sort of a fraternity that surrounds men who face danger together. The fire department becomes a part of you and you of it."Eugene Fields
Fire Chief Omaha Fire Department 1953 - 1962
Died of pneumonia on January 8, 1962 after leaving a hospital bed to respond to a two-alarm fire.
[Honor Roll of Firefighters]