Motorcycle ride, tribute raises money for national firefighter memorial in Ogden
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
OGDEN — For LeeRoy Arrellano, it was a good day for a motorcycle ride and for a good cause.
"They do a lot for us, in the snow, in the cold, in the night," he said. "While you are cozy in bed, they are out there helping people."
Arrellano joined thousands of other motorcycle enthusiasts in the 10th annual Fire Ride Saturday to pay tribute to those firefighters who have lost their lives while on the job and to raise money to complete a national firefighter memorial in the heart of downtown Ogden.
The ride began in Sandy and ended at 25th Street in Ogden, where a program was held at the Ogden Amphitheater, just west of where the new memorial will be completed.
Along the route, which shut down portions of State Street, there were at least 25 static displays by various fire departments showcasing their engines or towering ladder trucks draped with the American flag. Department members stood at attention or cheered the riders on.
Several motorcycle units from police departments along the Wasatch Front participated, which speaks to these professions that create a melding of spirit and purpose that Utah State Fire Marshal Deputy Chief Ted Black said is hard to explain.
"There is something inherent to fire service, and I believe to law enforcement, that creates a bond," he said. "I've not been able to put a name to it. Brotherhood comes close, but it is not enough."
The firefighter ride is the brainchild of Mike Leatham, who served as a volunteer fireman for 32 years, including a stint as the town fire marshal for Uintah, and his friend, Ogden Fire Capt. Rich King.
Meacham said the goal is to sell 5,000 bricks at a $100 pop for the creation of a national memorial accessible to all and one that pays tribute to all fallen firefighters.
While a couple hundred national firefighter memorials exist in the country, some don't recognize volunteers, or the military, or non-union. This memorial, he said, will pay tribute to all who have given their lives, going back as far as possible.
"We want to go back to the beginning of when this country first became a nation, and if your great-great-grandfather died in the Chicago fire of 1913, we want his name."
He figures they will get about 12,000 names or so to put on the wall — and showcase it for anyone who wants to see.
Leatham pointed to a firefighter memorial in Maryland that does not allow public access and even working firefighters have to get permission to get on the grounds.
Not here, at this memorial, in this town, he said.
"This will be all to see. This is going to turn Utah, especially Ogden, into a tourist attraction. People will come from all over to see it."
In the interim, it was enough for Leatham and others that the people came Saturday to tip their hats in respect, and give a nod to the cause.
"It is fantastic that people would take time out of their day to come out and give their support," said Ogden Fire Capt. Dan Gibson. "It means a lot to us."
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