CLEVELAND — Hundreds of motorcyclists took to the wet Cleveland streets to pay tribute to firefighters who lost their lives during the 15th Annual Cleveland Firefighters Memorial Ride Sunday.
The event not only honors fallen firefighters but also hopes to raise more awareness of the needs of their families after they’re gone.
Sunday six new names were added to the roll of honor.
Assistant Chief Rodney Baker from Madison Township, firefighter Joseph Patterson from Paint Creek, firefighter Mark Reel from Cleveland Heights, paramedic Robert Hetzer from Dayton, firefighter Darrel Wasmer from Powell and firefighter Daniel Lucius from Oak Harbor, all died in 2018. The last three lost their lives to cancer.
Firefighting is one of the most hazardous jobs in the country. Not only are firefighters in danger while fighting fires but the stress of their jobs and exposure to hazardous materials also takes a toll on their bodies, as heart attacks and cancers take many lives.
Just two years ago Ohio legislature extended workers compensation to firefighters with occupational related cancers. The law was named after Beachwood firefighter Captain Mike Palumbo who died from brain cancer in 2017.
However, firefighters say those benefits are still slow to reach families.
“That legislation named after Mike Plaumbo, I actually spoke to his wife yesterday — she has five children, they’ve still not approved that application. Yet her comment to us is we need to keep on fighting for that legislation that was passed two years ago but not being given to the men and women who deserve it,” said John Kikal, Firefighters Memorial Association.
The riders hope that Sunday’s memorial will not only honor those who have died but also continue to bring attention to the need to help firefighters and their families who a dealing with illness, because despite all the risks they will continue to answer the fire bell.