Monday, July 21, 2003

Memorial honors fallen firefighter

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BURLINGTON - Nearly 14 years ago, veteran firefighter Donnie Kirkpatrick was electrocuted by a downed wire while investigating a possible home fire.

Sunday afternoon, about 200 people remembered the assistant fire chief during the unveiling of the Burlington Firefighters Memorial. His family dedicated the memorial in front of Burlington's new fire station in honor of Kirkpatrick and other firefighters and emergency medics of "yesterday, today (and) tomorrow."

"Donnie Kirkpatrick gave his heart and soul to this fire department," his son, Brad Kirkpatrick, said during the nearly hourlong dedication service.

Bronze statues depict a firefighter on a 14-foot, stainless steel ladder rescuing a young boy. On the ground, another firefighter - designed in Kirkpatrick's image - is keeping a young girl, who is reaching for the ladder, away from danger.

The younger figures were made to look like Kirkpatrick's now-grown children, Traci and Brad. The firefighter on the ladder looks like Burlington Fire Chief Ernie Biddle.

"It really depicts them getting out of the house," said Donnie's widow, Judy Kirkpatrick of Burlington. "He would be so proud of it."

Donnie Kirkpatrick was two months shy of his 43rd birthday when he was electrocuted in 1989.

An early morning snowfall had left 3 inches of snow on wires and downed trees limbs.

Firefighters responding to a possible house fire were checking on crackling noises they could hear in the walls.

Kirkpatrick was checking the house when he accidentally touched or slipped against a cable that had been short circuited by a downed electrical line.

"It was a moment that I personally will never forget," said Biddle, who was fire chief at the time.

Kirkpatrick's son recalled fond memories of his father during Sunday's service, including coaching his baseball team and fixing cars.

"I vividly remember that smile," Brad Kirkpatrick said.

Fire chiefs and other firefighters from throughout Boone County stood around the memorial during the service and unveiling.

When the large blue tarp got caught on the tip of the ladder, one person joked that it was Kirkpatrick's sense of humor making the unveiling a bit difficult for firefighters.

Flags from Boone County fire and EMS departments circled the memorial. Judy Kirkpatrick declined to say how much the memorial cost.

"Even though dad is not here physically, I know he's here," Brad Kirkpatrick said during the service.



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