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Fallen firefighter remembered in Shrewsbury
On Saturday afternoon, a large American flag held between two fire engines stood in front of the Grace Fellowship Church in Shrewsbury.
It was the second time a flag had been displayed like that in the area in less than two days, to honor fallen Harrisburg career firefighter Lt. Dennis DeVoe, who was killed in a car crash the weekend before.
On Friday, a memorial service for DeVoe was held in Harrisburg, and on Saturday, his funeral service was held in Shrewsbury.
DeVoe, of Stewartstown, was a former volunteer with Eureka Volunteer Fire Co., where he served for about four years. He also was a volunteer at the Whiteford Volunteer Fire Co. and Citizens Volunteer Fire Co. of Fawn Grove.
DeVoe died March 11 at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center from injuries he suffered the night before while responding to a fatal house fire in Harrisburg.
Service and procession: The parking lot of the church was filled with fire personnel from all over the area, including some from Maryland.
After the service, DeVoe's funeral procession was composed of dozens of vehicles, including a few emergency vehicles. Among the vehicles was a Harrisburg fire engine that DeVoe used to ride on.
The procession started at the church and proceeded to Fawn Grove, where a private burial was held.
Along the way, numerous people stood outside the procession route in honor of DeVoe.
York City Deputy Fire Chief Chad Deardorff, who had known DeVoe, was among the many who attended Saturday's service.
He estimated about 1,400 people were there in total, with about 800 staying for the service.
“It was very deserving for him, he was a great guy," Deardorff said.
The deputy chief said that the procession took about an hour, and that along the route were a lot of people out supporting the fallen firefighter.
“There was very, very, huge support from the communities down there," he said.
Eureka Chief Ira Walker Jr. said there were likely 1,000 people along the procession route. Some held signs and flags to show support for DeVoe. He said some kids even had firefighter uniforms on to show respect.
“As far as showing a person ultimate respect and honor … no, I’ve never seen this before,” Walker said.
Brotherhood: York Area United Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Hoff, who said he had met DeVoe through firefighter-training programs, said he was pleased with the large turnout for the funeral.
"It was totally awesome to see the number of people from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania that turned out today," he said, calling it a "testament" to the profession.
Deardorff said that being a firefighter is part of a brotherhood and sisterhood, and that they come from all over.
“It’s basically a way to show respect for a fallen hero," he said.
“It’s a loss for all of us, whether you knew him for 20 years or a year, it’s still a loss of a family member," Walker said.
Walker said the service was a great showing of support for DeVoe.
“I know the family was very appreciative of the showing," he said.
Memories: Hoff and Deardorff said family and friends spoke highly of DeVoe during the funeral.
"(There were) a lot of memories about what a quality person he was," Hoff said.
Deardorff mentioned how one speaker commented that DeVoe had done more with his family in one year than some had done in their lifetime.
“Family, his wife and kids were his No. 1 thing … you know that showed," he said.
“It was very obvious he was very much a loving devoted husband and father, without question," Walker said.
Harrisburg: On Friday, Harrisburg firefighters honored DeVoe in the city where he worked.
According to Harrisburg police, DeVoe’s vehicle was struck by a intoxicated teenage driver of a stolen car several blocks from the Squad 8 station where DeVoe kept his gear.
Khanyae Kendall remains in custody and has been charged with several felonies and misdemeanors, including aggravated assault by motor vehicle and DUI.
Harrisburg Captain Brian Bastinelli delivered a moving eulogy Friday at a public memorial service for his colleague and best friend, sharing stories from their two decades of service together.
“The examples Denny set for us will forever remain part of his legacy,” Bastinelli said. “The bar he set is one we will always strive to reach.”
DeVoe had a “calm demeanor” and “superior knowledge” that made it easy for firefighters to trust him, Bastinelli said, and DeVoe always knew how best to control and conduct firefighting operations.
“I always felt better when I saw him at the scene,” Bastinelli said. “Whatever the assignment, I knew it would be carried out with courage, thought and skill.”
DeVoe and Bastinelli’s journey together began on March 11, 1996, when the two men entered the Harrisburg Fire Department’s academy, Bastinelli said. Exactly 21 years later, that shared journey came to a close.
“Two days with the same date that could not have been more different,” Bastinelli said. “The only thing good about those dates is that there was 21 years in between them — 21 years of developing a friendship and getting to do the thing we loved most together.”
Posthumous honors: During the memorial service, DeVoe was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by the International Association of Fire Fighters for his “service and sacrifice” at an early morning fire in Harrisburg last month.
The Harrisburg Fire Department also bestowed posthumous honors on DeVoe for his “courage and heroism” at the fire.
DeVoe’s Squad 8 was dispatched to a structure fire about 4:20 a.m. Feb. 1 and arrived two minutes later at the scene, where neighbors were screaming that someone was inside, Harrisburg Chief Brian Enterline said.
Without hesitation, DeVoe and fellow Harrisburg firefighter Nate Martin “crawled through a ball of fire” to reach and rescue a person trapped inside a first-floor apartment, Enterline said.
“It is for this successful rescue, and without due regard to his own life, that today we award Dennis H. DeVoe the Award of Heroism,” Enterline said, struggling to get the words out.
‘Tears at your guts’: York City Fire Department Chief David Michaels was at the service Friday to pay his respects to DeVoe, a “great” man whom he called a friend.
Michaels said he met DeVoe during training sessions and kept in touch with DeVoe over the years. DeVoe stopped at a fire in York City several months ago after seeing smoke on his way home to Stewartstown and wanted to help any way he could, Michaels said.
“It’s just the type of guy he was,” Michaels said. “He saw that we had a fire and stopped by. He stopped in to see if he could help.”
Outside the memorial service Friday, Michaels said he will use DeVoe’s legacy and the examples he set in the field to teach his younger crew members about what it means to be a firefighter.
On Friday morning, hundreds of uniformed firefighters marched alongside more than a hundred emergency response vehicles as DeVoe’s casket made one final journey through downtown Harrisburg.
Retired Harrisburg firefighter Tim Fackler worked with DeVoe for four years, and he said DeVoe always had a smile on his face, and he never heard DeVoe say anything bad.
Fackler said he participated in the procession because he knows DeVoe would have done the same for him.
“He was the type of guy that would have been here for me or any other firefighter,” Fackler said.
He called DeVoe’s death a tragedy and said it was the result of “a set of really bad circumstances.”
“It just tears at your guts,” Fackler said.
Both Deardorff and Walker said that the fire service will continue to support DeVoe's family.
“We’ll be there for the family, whatever they may need," Walker said.