DC Fire and EMS

‘Brings Back the Memories': DC Fire Department, Loved Ones Remember Fallen Firefighters

A bell rang out at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Northwest D.C. for all 101 firefighters who died in service of the District

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This year, the D.C. Fire and EMS Department will commemorate 150 years of serving the nation’s capital, and on Saturday, the department honored the 101 firefighters who have lost their lives carrying out that service. 

With a solemn ceremony at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Northwest, as fire trucks stood outside, the fire department remembered the fallen. 

Among those remembered was one of the first casualties, firefighter Benjamin Grenup, who was run over by a fire wagon in 1856 as he responded to a fire at a stable on 7th Street NW. His tombstone in Glenwood Cemetery bears a depiction of the incident, a firefighter crushed under the weight. 

A bell rang out for Grenup and all of those who died in service of the District - like Angelique Williams-Wilkinson’s father, John T. Williams.

Williams-Wilkinson was only 8 years old when he died, but even as a child, she knew it was a dangerous job. 

“But I knew he loved doing it. He would go there on his days off, but I never thought that this would’ve happened to him,” she said. 

John Williams’ name is mounted in a call box at 14th and H Street NW, across the street from where he died on Dec. 19, 1984. The area was still a red light district, and a fire broke out in a theater on the block. 

Williams fell through an overhang and into a basement as he searched for trapped victims. 

“He did something that he loved doing, and that’s helping others,” his daughter said. 

The service addressed the sad camaraderie among the families that have experienced this kind of loss. 

Lysa Phillips has known it since her husband Anthony Phillips died, along with firefighter Louis Matthews, fighting the same fire in 1999. 

“It’s just a moment of course that brings back the memories. However, it’s just the love the department has for our family members,” she said. 

The procession left the church, filing past fire engines bearing the names of the fallen crew members that staffed them - sobering reminders of the dangers of the job and the dedication of those who do it. 

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