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Girard ceremony pays tribute to fallen firefighters - KOAM TV 7

Girard ceremony pays tribute to fallen firefighters

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GIRARD, KANSAS -

Girard Fire Department put on its 29th annual fallen firefighters memorial and for one firefighter, it was personal.

Robert Jones of the Caney Fire Department considers Cliff Sanders, a Caney fireman who passed away in January of 2015, to be his best friend.

"Even doing the pledge of allegiance was tough," Jones said.

Jones described Sanders as the department jokester, adding that after only a few minutes with Sanders, your whole mood can change.

"Still to this day, his picture hangs on our wall and we go on a run, we take him with us. Because we need that. Some of the stuff we go through, we gotta have laughter," Jones said.

Sanders was one of the 112 firefighter names read at the ceremony. Three of those names, including Sanders, were from Kansas while 24 of the names were firefighters who passed away in 2015 due to complications stemming from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"We never met them, have no idea what their families are like or their departments are like, it's important to remember those people," Chief Duane Banzet of the Neodesha Fire Department said.

Banzet was this year's featured speaker. His message of family and having a servant heart was "heartfelt" according to Jones.

"I lost 112 brothers," Jones said.

Heart attacks remain the number one killer of firefighters, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Two of the three fallen firefighters from Kansas in 2015 were due to cardiac arrest.

"We're trying to get firefighters to be more proactive about their own health. A lot of stations today like this one have a workout facility where we can stay in good shape and kind of be proactive," Banzet said of the Girard Fire Department.

Many departments are implementing fitness testing in an attempt to cut back firefighter deaths, in turn, having less names to read at next year's fallen firefighter memorial.

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