PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — They rush to infernos. Sometimes they don’t make it out alive.
Elizabeth Asahi Sato’s uncle was Portland Fire Senior Captain Gregory Warner. “He was only 40 years old, and had served in the Portland Fire Bureau for over 22 years. He died in 1946 after putting out a fire,” she said.
Sato, who describes herself as “a descendent of a fallen firefighter,” is pouring her heart into establishing a fallen firefighter memorial at Portland’s Eastbank Esplanade, next to Fire Station 21.
“Each firefighter that lost their life has an important story, not only to other firefighters, but to the public,” said retired Portland firefighter Don Porth.
Over the years, a total of 74 Portland firefighters made the ultimate sacrifice, including Portland Fire Chief David Campbell in 1911.
He rushed into the Union Oil Company fire on Southeast Water Street to warn his crews the building was about to collapse. The crews made it out.
Campbell did not.
Credited with establishing modern firefighting methods in Portland, his funeral procession was the largest in Portland history.
There is a memorial to Campbell at SW 18th and Burnside, next to Portland Firefighters Park, where the historic fire bell, The Messenger, resides.
The David Campbell Memorial will stay and be cleaned up. But the bell will move to the new memorial. Porth and Sato hope the public will step forward to help make the memorial happen by June 2023, where they plan to have the annual service for fallen firefighters.
That service is now held where many firefighters are buried, at Southeast Portland’s Lone Fir Cemetery.
Portland firefighters have already contributed $100,000 toward the $1 million cost of the new memorial. The City of Portland kicked in another $100,000.
Porth said the new memorial will “have a particular lighting scheme. If a firefighter dies in the line of duty anywhere in the country we would light it up to let people know.”
“I believe this memorial is not only going to be educational,” Sato said, “but it’s going to be meaningful in the way that it brings us together.”