Bemidji Fire Department looks to create honor guard
BEMIDJI— Honoring those who have fallen is important.
The Bemidji Fire Department does not currently have an honor guard but Doug Fuller, Josh Butler and others are looking to change that.
“The discussions (about starting an honor guard) started close to three years ago,” Fuller said. “Part of it is because our new (fire) chief is more interested in taking the department to a higher level. With that, we started the discussions.”
The fire department wants to have a bigger presence in the community, Fuller said.
“There are things we can do in regards to that, whether it be in the parades and hockey games and presenting the colors,” Fuller said.
The project now is in the beginning stages.
“We have been talking about it a little more seriously within the last year, maybe two,” Fuller said. “We’ve been meeting as a group for probably the past nine months, a couple times a month for just a little bit of training, marching and different things like flag folding.
“We are literally getting to the point where we want to get more serious.”
At the moment, raising funds for uniforms is one needed aspect in getting the honor guard going. About $600 per person is needed to acquire the uniforms, to allow guard members to be able to go out in public and look the part. Also, there are equipment needs.
“As of now, each one of us that are on honor guard have been going out on our own … to the businesses that the Bemidji Fire Department goes through, asking them to donate amounts of money,” Butler said. “We go to different local businesses, different individuals in the community, trying to raise the money on our own.”
Fuller said there now are eight interested people, meaning the honor guard would need about $5,000.
Honor guard is a ceremonial function that would represent the fire department during funerals, parades and other events.
One of the reasons the idea for an honor guard first came up was in case someone were to perish while fighting a fire.
“Ultimately the biggest concern would be if something were to happen to one of us,” Fuller said. “What would we do and how would we handle it. The honor guard system, once we get it up fully running and operational, actually has plans in place in case, God forbid, something were to happen to one of us or gets killed.”
They would end up having plans and/or systems in place to deal with such a situation, which they don’t have now, Fuller said.
“And hopefully it never happens, but if one of us were to get killed in the line of duty, you end up with all kinds of dignitaries, the governor and all kinds of things that would really put stresses and challenges on us,” Fuller said. “So it would be good if we have that planned out ahead of time.”
Plans for getting the honor guard up and going is aimed for early summer.
“The original discussions, or part of the discussions of how we got to ‘hey, we got to ramp this up and what’s our target date is,’ was that in June of this year the annual state fire convention is going to be in Bemidji,” Fuller said. “Part of that state fire convention historically has been a memorial service. And there (is) a fallen firefighters group out there that always presents the colors at that memorial service.
“That’s where we, as a group, said, ‘Hey … we could have that be one of our first events or our first event.’ That gave us something on the calendar to shoot for and train for.”
The project is also for the community as well.
“It’s not just for us as the department, for the firefighter conference, it’s for the community as well,” Butler said. “The parades that we have, we can be showing our colors there. There are so many different aspects that we can use the honor guard for, if we are able to get it running. We just appreciate the community’s support.”
The firefighters said they believe the formation of a Bemidji honor guard would be the city’s first.
“The department was founded in 1898. In that time, in the records I have seen in my 21 years, I don’t believe they have,” Fuller said.