Monday, March 24, 2003

Firefighters to take role in funeral



By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Firefighters from Columbus and Covington have volunteered to man Cincinnati firehouses Thursday morning so all 780 city firefighters can attend the funeral of Oscar Armstrong III - the first Cincinnati firefighter to die on duty in more than two decades.

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Tributes to Oscar Armstrong III pile up at the Firefighters Memorial.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
The casket will be carried in the hose bed of Engine 9, the same truck that took him to the fire in which he died. The truck will lead a procession expected to include as many as 50 pieces of fire equipment from across the country.

It will stop briefly for a prayer at the Bond Hill firehouse where Armstrong worked.

"We're going to make sure it's flawless,'' union president Joe Diebold said of the funeral. "This kid deserves it. His family deserves it.''

Armstrong, a 25-year-old father of two with another child expected this summer, died in a house fire Friday. He'd been at work less than two hours that morning before pulling on his turnout gear and boots, and riding to the kitchen fire on Laidlaw Avenue in Bond Hill. He got caught in what's called a flashover, which happens when the fire gets hot enough that everything inside bursts into flame.

[photo] Oscar Armstrong III with his 5-year-old sons, Isaiah (left) and Oscar IV.
(Family photo)
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Funeral arrangements were not final Sunday, but full department honors are in the works.

Visitation was scheduled for 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and the funeral was set for 9 a.m. Thursday. Locations had not yet been chosen as of Sunday night.

Armstrong will be buried in Spring Grove Cemetery and a wake will follow at Music Hall. The pallbearers will be members of Armstrong's engine company and his fire academy graduating class, Class #104.He'd been a firefighter since January 2000.

Until the burial, Armstrong's body will be watched over around the clock by firefighters in dress uniforms.

"Guys are volunteering to stand in the morgue from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.,'' said firefighter Mark Flagler, who graduated from the academy with Armstrong and stood watch at the morgue Saturday morning.

"I think that's pretty incredible.''

E-mail jprendergast@enquirer.com

Sunday stories:
Family visits scene of fatal fire
Stress team helps folks cope after tragedy
PULFER: Firefighter's death
Saturday stories:
Firefighter dies in Bond Hill
Fire department mourns
Fireman's widow says community support helped family
Memorial a gathering spot for firefighters
Editorial: Gave it his all




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