Seth Thomas, son of Ronald Thomas, looks where his father’s name is etched into a wall honoring firefighters who died in the line of duty.
Madison Township firefighter Ronald Thomas fought many battles over his lifetime to save the lives of others, but his own war with cancer was lost when the Grove City resident passed away in 2010.
On Sept. 15, Thomas was inducted into the International Association of Firefighters Fallen Firefighter Memorial in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Madison Township Fire Department honor guard, along with members of the Thomas family, attended the ceremony.
Thomas’ name was etched into a granite wall alongside other firefighters whose death was in the line of duty. The memorial was installed in 1986 and is accompanied by a 20-foot-tall bronze sculpture of a firefighter descending a ladder while cradling an infant in his arm.
The move to have Thomas’ name included on the memorial began last September when Madison Township firefighter Ed Dildine attended a similar ceremony in Colorado. After talking with other association members and officials, he began the process to have Thomas’ name inscribed on the wall since the IAFF recognizes his cancer as duty related.
"Firefighters from across the U.S. and Canada attended the ceremony," said interim Madison Township Chief Robert Bates.
Honor guard members served in various capacities such as a reader, IAFF flag presenter, department flag presenter, bell ringer, and echo bell ringer.
Firefighter Zach Thomas, who was sworn in on Oct. 19, 2011, rang the 333 bell code in memory of his father, who joined the township fire department in 1990.
Bates said the code signifies that a firefighter has returned from his last alarm. Bates said that nearly 1,000 people participated in the ceremony, during which 154 names were called in memory of their service.
"Ron was our first member inducted into the memorial and hopefully our last," said Bates. "The weekend really drives home the point of what we do. It was a very emotional time and I was biting my lip a lot. It really gives you an appreciation for the sacrifices these folks have made and to see it on that big of a scale during the ceremony gives you goose bumps. You get an idea of how big the brotherhood really is."
After Thomas was diagnosed with a brain tumor in early 2007, firefighters from Madison and Norwich townships joined together in sprucing up his Grove City home. All materials were donated by firefighters and their families, who also helped transport the Thomas family to and from appointments.
Information about the firefighter memorial is available at www.iaff.org.