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York County's fallen firefighters, EMS honored

Christopher Dornblaser
505-5436/@YDDornblaser

On March 12, Earl Shoemaker, a Hanover firefighter, died from a heart attack while responding to a fire in West Manheim Township. On Sunday afternoon, Shoemaker was among nearly 30 other fallen firefighters in York County honored at the Prospect Hill Cemetery Safekeepers Shrine.

A ceremony Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, at Prospect Hill Cemetery in North York honors fallen York County firefighters and other first responders who have died in the line of duty. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Hanover and Penn Township Deputy Fire Chief Tony Clousher attended the ceremony and said that before Shoemaker's addition to the shrine, he had not been there much. The shrine lists the names of fallen emergency responders in the county.

"It's very sobering to read the names," he said.

Clousher said he hopes more departments see the shrine, because it's not just for the departments closest to the cemetery.

"It's for everybody in York County," Clousher said.

The shrine opened last year, and this was the second year firefighters and emergency personnel were honored, which happened at the end of National Fire Prevention Week.

Friends, colleagues come out to show respect for fallen firefighter

Honored: Clousher was among several other first responders in attendance during the ceremony. Ira Walker Jr., fire chief for Eureka Volunteer Fire Department in Stewartstown, was there and participated in the ceremony. Almost 100 years ago, Roscoe Gemmill, a firefighter in the department, fell off a fire apparatus while responding to a fire and died.

"Most firefighters don't go out looking to get praised," Walker said after the ceremony. He said, however, when it is the firefighter's last call and they give their life, it's good that they can be honored.

"That's what should happen," he said.

Several people spoke during the ceremony, including Walker, who read the Firefighter's Prayer. Clousher read the names of the fallen during the ceremony, and each name was followed by the ringing of a bell.

York City Council President Carol Hill-Evans also spoke during the ceremony, commending the sacrifices of the first responders. After the ceremony, she mentioned how important it is to acknowledge them, saying people don't often realize how they affect the lives of people every day.

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Hill-Evans also mentioned the sacrifice of those responders who lost their lives.

"This is a testament to those who did just that," she said.

Jack Sommer, managing partner for the cemetery, said the ceremony was a good way to honor the fallen responders.

"We're honored to play host to it," he said.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.

Deputy Fire Chief Tony Clousher reads the names of the fallen while retired Commissioner James Roth, of Hanover, rings the bell to honor first responders who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty at Prospect Hill Cemetery in North York, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo