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Fallen firefighters honored at ceremony in Salem

Firefighters Memorial
Chris Lehman
Family members of a fallen firefighter walk past a line of flags that honor the 174 firefighters who have died in the line of duty in Oregon.

Four firefighters who died in the line of duty in Oregon last year were honored during a ceremony at the state’s public safety academy in Salem on Thursday.

Two died of work-related cancer. One suffered a cardiac arrest after responding to a vehicle crash. And one died when he was struck by a falling tree while fighting a wildfire in Lane County last August.

That firefighter was 56-year-old Frumencio Ruiz-Carapia, who worked for who worked for GE Forestry Inc.

"Ruiz-Carapia succumbed to his injuries at the scene despite efforts from his crew to save him," according to a news release from the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. "Immediately following his death, responders wrapped him in the American flag and formed a procession before his body was prepared for transport home to Medford, where he would eventually be sent to Queretaro, Mexico where his mother and brother live."

Jose Garcia worked alongside Ruiz-Carapia and considered him a friend.

“We know we always go out not knowing if we will return home," Garcia said during Thursday's ceremony. "That’s why every morning he would tell me ‘Always make sure you tell your wife and kids goodbye and I’ll see you later. Always leave with a great smile, because you never know. If you leave mad, you'll never know if you'll be able to come back home and smile at your family.'”

Firefighters Memorial2
Chris Lehman
Wreaths were laid to honor the firefighters whose names were added to the memorial.

The two firefighters who died from work-related cancer were Rick Ilg of Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, and Jerry Richardson of Portland Fire & Rescue.

Also honored was Harry Klopfenstein, a volunteer for the Silverton Fire District, who died of a cardiac arrest the day after responding to a motor vehicle crash.

All four firefighters honored are considered to have died in the line of duty.

"We recognize their heroism, valor and service," said Portland Fire & Rescue Chief Sara Boone. "We know that the fire service knows no boundary when it comes to service, and when it comes to loss."

Firefighters Memorial3
Chris Lehman
Portland Fire & Rescue Chief Sara Boone stands in front of a wall that memorializes Oregon's 174 fallen firefighters.

At the end of the ceremony, firefighters laid wreaths in front of a granite wall that honors their colleagues who died in the line of duty. There are 174 names etched on the memorial, including the four added this year.

At least one more name will be added next year. Volunteer firefighter Austin Smith died in February while battling a barn fire in northern Marion County.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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