Saturday, March 22, 2003

Firefighter: Gave it his all

The death of 25-year-old Cincinnati firefighter Oscar Armstrong while battling a three-alarm blaze Friday morning reminds us again of the risks taken for us here at home every day, far from the battlefields of Iraq.

Inside a blazing Bond Hill residence, Armstrong was engulfed in a "flashover," a sudden, intense plume of fire that consumes everything in the room. Armstrong's lifeless body was found in the side yard. His fellow firefighters tried to resuscitate him. He was pronounced dead at University Hospital. The first notice had gone out to fire crew pagers: "Firefighter down." Less than two hours later came the last: "Pray for his family."

Pray for his family.

All occupants of the home on Laidlaw Avenue, near Paddock, made it out safely, and none was seriously injured.

Fire Chief Robert Wright paid emotional tribute to the young firefighter who served only three years on the force: "I want you all to know he is a hero," Wright said. "He gave it his all."

Armstrong is the first Cincinnati firefighter killed in the line of duty since Jan. 28, 1981, when Lawrence Hauserman died from injuries suffered in a fall from a ladder two days earlier. Miami Township firefighter Bill Ellison was the last Tristate firefighter to die in the line of duty, in March 2001.

The heartbreaking loss of firefighters and police officers in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York's twin towers raised the nation's consciousness of the risks that "first responders" are prepared to take for us.

For all of those fallen in the line of duty and for Oscar Armstrong, the thank-yous will have to take the form of a prayer.

Related stories:
Firefighter dies in Bond Hill 'flashover' blaze
Fire department mourns
Fireman's widow says community support helped family cope
Memorial a gathering spot for firefighters

Firefighter: Gave it his all
War at home: Senseless acts
Tax deal: Spare Tristate
Readers' Views