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Local firefighters perform at national memorial ceremony

Pipers at rear from left are Patrick Williams, PJ Burt, Jessie Ireland and John Geleynse. Drummers, foreground, are Tony Esser, left, and Kenneth Cunningham.
Pipers at rear from left are Patrick Williams, PJ Burt, Jessie Ireland and John Geleynse. Drummers, foreground, are Tony Esser, left, and Kenneth Cunningham. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Several Whatcom County firefighters — part of the Bellingham Firefighters Pipes and Drums corps — traveled last weekend to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for ceremonies at the International Association of Fire Fighters’ Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial.

The memorial is a bronze statue of a firefighter rescuing a baby and two granite walls that contain the names of the men and women killed in the line of duty dating to 1976, when the federal government began tracking line-of-duty deaths in the fire service. Last weekend, the IAFF honored 310 members killed over the past two years and added 121 granite slabs that display more than 7,300 names dating to 1918, including hundreds who died of illnesses such as cancer from exposure to toxins on the job.

A Whatcom County IAFF Local 106 spokesman said its members played at a ceremony that included an estimated 1,000 bagpipers and drummers.

“Remembering our fallen brothers and sisters is at the core of our band’s mission. We are honored to be here again, participating in such a wonderful event,” firefighter PJ Burt said via the union’s Twitter feed.

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