AUGUSTA — The shiny silver fire bell rang 34 times Saturday morning at the polished granite Maine Firefighters Memorial on the grounds of the State House complex.

The peals marked the passing of each person in the past year who had served as a firefighter in the state.

Marshall King, of Fairfield, who spent 22 years as an officer with the Waterville Fire Department and currently is a spare driver and dispatcher with the Fairfield Fire Department, read the roll of the deceased. He said they died while they were still members of the Maine State Federation of Firefighters.

Four large wooden plaques bearing names were set up next to the granite memorial. Three of the nameplates were bright red, meaning those firefighters died in the line of duty.

As the roll call sounded, three dozen firefighters in dress uniforms stood in the ranks they had formed after marching along State Street behind the Poland Fire Color Guard. There were representatives from departments across the state, including those in Biddeford, Dixfield, Gardiner, Hallowell, Millinocket, Owls Head, Rome, West Gardiner and York. Chaplain Wally Staples, of Dresden Fire and Rescue, offered prayers at the ceremony.

The Augusta Fire Department had several vehicles at the scene, including the T-1 or tower truck, with its distinctive black ladder.

State Street’s southbound travel lane had been cordoned off with traffic cones and blocked by a fire vehicle; however, the noise from passing traffic occasionally drowned out the public address system.

Ken Desmond, president of the Maine State Federation of Firefighters, and a firefighter himself for more than 48 years, said the group has more than 5,500 members statewide.

Scott Holst, chairman of the memorial committee and also a lieutenant with the Waterville Fire Department, organized Saturday’s service and assured some attendees that if they sent in the names of their department’s deceased members, “they’ll be there next year.”

Several politicians or their representatives spoke at the ceremony. Sen. Scott Cyrway, R-Benton, thanked the firefighters for their service. “We are all incredibly lucky you are there when the call comes in,” he said.

The memorial itself was dedicated 21 years ago by then-governor and now U.S. Sen. Angus King. King and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins sent representatives to read remarks at the service, as did U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District.

King’s representative, Scott Wilkinson, offered a shout-out to girlfriend Annesley Beringer, 24, of Waterville, a volunteer with an eight-person Maine wildfire crew that recently returned from a two-week stint fighting fires at Shosta-Trinity National Forest near Redding, California. Mane sent two crews of eight people, each for two weeks at a time.

Beringer, an emergency medical technician in the emergency room at Northern Light Inland Hospital in Waterville, said that while she enjoyed working on the line, “it was hard to see all the families and people who had to evacuate their homes.”

She said the residents were appreciative of the firefighters’ efforts. “Being over there working side by side with firefighters from all over the county was truly an amazing experience. I’m so thankful I was able to lend a hand in the efforts to battle the huge fires in the West.”

October is Fire Prevention Month, and the Augusta Fire Department is hosting a Touch-A-Truck fire prevention event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday on Front Street alongside the Kennebec River. The street will be closed during that time.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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