Local men remembered as ‘firefighter heroes’Cloquet Area Fire District Battalion Chief Steve Kolodge said he was “blown away” by Sunday’s dedication of a new memorial on the grounds of the Minnesota State Capitol honoring the 207 state firefighters who have died in the line of duty since 1981.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Cloquet Area Fire District Battalion Chief Steve Kolodge said he was “blown away” by Sunday’s dedication of a new memorial on the grounds of the Minnesota State Capitol honoring the 207 state firefighters who have died in the line of duty since 1981.
“It was a far greater production than I ever thought it would be,” said Kolodge. “It was a lot to take in all at once.”
Kolodge escorted Cathy Wagner and Amy Pollard, the daughter and granddaughter of the late Gordon “Scotty” Mattson of Cloquet, a firefighter who suffered a fatal heart attack while battling a grass fire west of Cloquet in 1975.
After the families of the deceased firefighters were transported by bus to the park area of the Capitol, where the Vietnam and police memorials also stand, they were escorted through a lineup of firefighters in dress uniforms and led up to the podium where the dedication ceremony was held. On hand were numerous dignitaries from the state fire service, as well as Governor Mark Dayton, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and the Minneapolis and St. Paul fire chiefs, all of whom made remarks during the ceremony.
“We are honoring the Minnesota firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Klobuchar. “To [the rest of the] firefighters, we say we are grateful for your service and pray for your safety.”
The name of each of the fallen firefighters was read, and their family members were presented with an American flag that had been flown on the Capitol grounds.
Other past Cloquet firefighters also honored were Jalmer Anderson, who reportedly fell off a fire truck and was killed in the 1940s, and Fred Oberg, who died fighting a fire in an industrial building. Kolodge said attempts to contact any remaining family members of the two men were not successful. He said the flags for the families are being held by the local department in hopes that eventually some contact can be made with their families. Anyone knowing of any remaining relatives is asked to contact the CAFD at 218-879-6514.
Also on hand at Sunday’s dedication was Alina Granholm, escorted by Esko Fire Chief Jeff Juntunen. Granholm’s husband, Kim, was killed while responding to a car fire on I-35 10 years ago after a car crashed into the group of first responders. Alina Granholm, also a volunteer firefighter for the department, was there on the scene the day of the fatality. Since that time, she has been a devoted advocate of the state’s “Move Over Law,” which states vehicles must pull over into an outside lane, if possible, when an emergency vehicle is parked on the side of the road.
As a member of the Minnesota State Fire Service, Alina Granholm also participated in the day’s ceremony, helping to hand out flags to families as well as to receive one for her husband’s service and sacrifice.
The memorial that was dedicated on Sunday was sculpted in bronze by Douglas O. Freeman and depicts a firefighter rescuing a child. The central figures are surrounded by a series of 100 fire poles, each of which bears names of the firefighters who died in the line of duty.
Kolodge estimated there were some 6,000-7,000 people in attendance at the day’s event, including approximately 1,000 family members.
“We’ve basically been waiting 130 years for something like this, to recognize all of the sacrifices that were made by firefighters,” said Kolodge.
Juntunen said the dedication of a statue memorializing fallen firefighters and its location on the Capitol grounds has been in the works for the past decade. After two failed attempts to raise money for it, the Minnesota State Fire Service succeeded in raising $600,000 in six months.
“It was quite a day,” reflected Juntunen. “Not only to honor Kimmer [Granholm], but to finally say that we got our memorial.”