- COVID-19 crisis means public cannot stand alongside firefighters this year
Fire stations across the UK and internationally will fall silent at 12:00 midday today (Monday 4 May), Firefighters’ Memorial Day, organised jointly by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the Firefighters Memorial Trust (FMT).
Firefighters and control staff will stand outside their workplaces and sound their sirens as they hold a minute’s silence for the more than 2,300 UK firefighters who have died in the line of duty.
They will pay tribute to the nine firefighters in the United States and the four firefighters in Italy who have lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic.
At the forefront of their minds will be those colleagues lost in the line of duty last year:
- Simon Kaye, who died suddenly on 13 April 2020, after taking ill during a routine day shift at Christchurch Fire Station, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service
- Stevie Kerridge, an Aberdeenshire firefighter for 20 years, who died after experiencing a medical emergency while attending an incident on 13 April 2020.
- Josh Gardner of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, who died on duty on 17 September 2019, whilst undertaking water rescue training.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, will lay a wreath at the National Firefighters’ Memorial at St Pauls, London, in lieu of any larger ceremony during the pandemic. He will be joined by Sarah Mullallay, Bishop of London and Mia Hilborn, London Fire Brigade chaplain, on behalf of the Firefighters’ Memorial Trust. For the first time, the FBU will be live-streaming the wreath-laying on its social media channels.
Memorial ceremonies for firefighters who lost their lives have been held throughout the year as part of the FBU’s Red Plaque scheme, funded by the Firefighters’ 100 Lottery. The scheme allows firefighters, communities and the family and friends of those lost to pay tribute to fallen heroes and to provide a place of reflection and memorial for all time.
A number of red plaque events have been postponed due to the pandemic, including two which should have taken place on Firefighters’ Memorial Day. The FBU’s red plaque scheme is funded by the Firefighters 100 Lottery, which has raised more than £435,000 for good causes since its inception in 2017.
In 2018, the FBU marked its centenary with a “once in a generation” service at Southwark Cathedral. More than 50 wreaths were laid at the Firefighters’ Memorial in memory of fallen firefighters, representing every fire service in the UK.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:
“Firefighters come into work each day to save the lives of others but, tragically, it is their own lives that can be lost in the process.
“We remember them this day to pay tribute, but there must also be lessons learnt from each fallen firefighter. All too often, their deaths could and should have been prevented. We reaffirm our commitment today to fight for the safety of all firefighters.
“While many remain in their homes as we battle coronavirus, firefighters continue to show up to work each day, keeping their communities safe. And, as with so many national emergencies, firefighters are on the frontline of this pandemic.
“This year, we have lost three of our comrades whilst on-duty in the UK and countless others internationally. And we have watched in pain as firefighters in Italy and the United States have lost their lives to COVID-19.
“It is the sombre reality of our profession that, each day, the families of firefighters can never know for certain that their loved ones will come home that night. Today, we remember their bravery and sacrifice. In their honour, we hold this minute’s silence.”