As construction workers began laying the foundation for a monument to the county’s firefighters, fire officials Tuesday described the 13-year effort to raise the funds for the tribute as a labor of love.
“It feels pretty good. It’s been a goal of mine to get (the monument) up,” said Fountain Valley Fire Chief Richard E. Jorgensen, who has been among the forces behind the effort.
Made of white Sierra granite, The Orange County Firefighters Monument will be erected Sept. 15 near Broadway and Santa Ana Boulevard in Santa Ana, not far from the County Hall of Administration. A dedication ceremony is planned for 10:30 a.m. Oct. 9, following a parade beginning at 9 a.m.
The monument will have a 10-foot-wide, triangular base and three arched columns that stretch 12 feet high to a disc from which a brass bell will hang. The bell is a symbol of the fire service.
Jorgensen said the brass was collected from hose couplings from fire departments throughout the county.
A life-size brass statue of a firefighter carrying a baby will be placed in the center of the monument. Jorgensen said $50,000 has been raised so far but an additional $35,000 is needed to complete the project.
The monument will represent firefighters of the past, present and future, Jorgensen said.
“It will be a place for families to go to reflect on a (loved one’s) service to the community and it will be a source of pride for on-duty firefighters,” he said.
The monument was the brainchild of Msgr. John Sammon, vicar for community affairs for the Diocese of Orange, who for 51 years has served as a chaplain to firefighters.
“It’s great because I think it was needed a long time ago and it will serve a very good purpose,” Sammon said.
Sammon said that firefighters deserve to be recognized just as police officers have been.
“Why exclude them?” Sammon said. “The fire agencies also render a service. It’s a symbol and a reminder of the work that the fire family does in the community.”
A committee was formed in 1980 to start raising the money to build the monument. Over the last decade there have been picnics, dinners and sales of T-shirts and lapel pins, as well as private donations totaling thousands of dollars. Last year the committee raised $35,000 at an Anaheim conference for fire chiefs, Jorgensen said.
The materials and labor needed to erect the monument are being donated.
Sammon said the monument couldn’t have been built without community support. “I want to express thanks to all those who have helped us and supported the idea,” he said.
Donations for the monument can be sent in care of Fire Chief Richard E.Jorgensen, 10200 Slater Ave., Fountain Valley, Calif. 92708. Make checks payable to the Orange County Firefighters Monument.