Firefighters walked together Saturday carrying an American flag in honor of Lt. Randy Carpenter, who died in the line of duty Nov. 25 in Coos Bay. Many of Carpenter's fellow firefighters from Coos Bay and North Bend made the trip to Baker City for the memorial service. (Baker City Herald
By CHRIS COLLINS
Of the Baker City Herald
Sirens screamed, horns blew and lights flashed Saturday morning to announce that Baker City's Randy Carpenter had made his final return to the community where he got his start as a firefighter.
Carpenter, 45, was one of three firefighters who died in the line of duty Nov. 25 while fighting a fire at the Farwest Truck andamp; Auto Supply in downtown Coos Bay. He was the son of Wayne and Dru Carpenter of Baker City.
While processionals traditionally are marked by quiet, solemn travel to the service, Carpenter's family had asked for lots of noise Saturday, said Fred Hertel, assistant Baker City fire chief.
andquot;The family actually requested that we make lots of noise,andquot; Hertel said. andquot;They wanted the community to know that Randy had come home.andquot; He and volunteer firefighter Jeffery Common, 30, died inside the building. R. Chuck Hanners, 33, another volunteer, died at the Bay Area Hospital of injuries sustained in the fire.
About 70 people from the Coos Bay and North Bend fire departments traveled across the state this weekend for the 1 o'clock service at the Baker High School gymnasium. Hertel said 600 to 700 people attended the service and a reception afterward at the Nazarene Church.
Firefighters from Oregon and Idaho as well as representatives of departments in New York City and Colorado and the International Association of Firefighters in Washington, D.C., joined the crowd. The processional included 36 fire department vehicles and three police cars, Hertel said.
The Washington, D.C., association representative presented Carpenter's family with the Medal of Honor during the memorial service.
Carpenter had been a captain for a number of years, but he chose to become a lieutenant when the department reorganized, according to Stan Gibson, Coos Bay fire chief. The Coos Bay Fire Department promoted him to the rank of captain during Saturday's service, Gibson said.
The fire chief expressed appreciation to the community for the care and concern given to his people during their stay in Baker City.
andquot;It was overwhelming the support from the community and the fire department,andquot; Gibson said. andquot;The community opened its arms to us.andquot;
The fire department also demonstrated the bond that exists in the brotherhood of firefighters by opening its doors to the visitors during the weekend.
andquot;It was a place of comfort,andquot; Gibson said.
Firefighter Dan Crutchfield, the Coos Bay department's family liaison person; firefighter Mike Seldon, who worked on Carpenter's shift in the department; and Lt. Randy Miles, representing the International Association of Firefighters, Local 2939, all spoke at the service. Pastors Lennie Spooner of the Nazarene Church and Chris Carpenter of Nampa, Idaho, Randy's nephew, officiated. Bill Smith, retired Baker City fire chief, also spoke.
The Coos Bay department brought one fire engine and one public relations vehicle, the department's FLARE (Fire Learning and Resource Education car) for Saturday's processional, Gibson said. Carpenter was instrumental in developing the fire safety program, Gibson said.
The Coos Bay and North Bend communities are continuing to recover from the tragic deaths.
andquot;Every day is a unique challenge for us as we're struggling to overcome our grief and feeling of loss,andquot; Gibson said. andquot;It was obvious the community cared very much for the Carpenter family and we were pleased to have been a part of that.andquot;