DC Fire and EMS to hold historic parade and tribute to fallen firefighters Saturday

D.C. Fire and EMS will hold a parade along the National Mall on Saturday to celebrate 150 years of serving the District and to honor 101 fallen firefighters.

“This is the first time in 25 years that our department will have a parade that is dedicated solely to the service that we provide to the city and celebrating another historic landmark in our history,” Deputy Fire Chief Anthony Kelleher said at the Wednesday announcement.

“To help us celebrate this, we’ve invited all of our partners from within the city — the different labor organizations, a lot of our partners from the District Department of Transportation, as well as fire and EMS agencies outside the city that are in the Washington, D.C., region.”

Starting at 11 a.m., the parade will head west on Constitution Avenue from 7th to 14th streets Northwest. Then comes a display of modern and antique department equipment spanning decades that’s scheduled to run from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., stretching from 14th Street down to 12th Street on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Kelleher said around 100 pieces of Fire and EMS equipment will be on display, some of which have seen service in California and the Midwest.

Among the items on display will be relics such as a steamer, one of the first fire chief’s horse-drawn buggies, a piece of equipment that was hand-pulled through the streets of D.C. back in the 1800s and more.

Kelleher said D.C. Fire and EMS will also be “paying tribute and respect to the sacrifice that’s been made by members of our department to our city since 1871.”

Since 1871, he said, the fire department has seen 101 line-of-duty deaths “on emergency incidents or as a result of emergency incidents.” The parade will feature 102 District of Columbia flags carried by probationary recruit and cadet members. “Each one of those 101 flags will represent the line of duty deaths that I’ve spoken about,” Kelleher said; “the 102nd flag is going to be for anyone that historically was not documented as having died in the line of duty.”

The family of fallen D.C. Fire and EMS firefighter Anthony Phillips — who died in the line of duty after battling a townhouse fire on Cherry Road Northeast on May 30, 1999 — was at the Wednesday announcement to discuss the importance of remembering the fallen.

“We are happy to be here today to be a part of this historic event. … We are proud to honor the 101 firefighters who have lost their lives,” Phillips’ widow, Lysa, said with her sons Anthony Phillips Jr. and Arzel Phillips beside her. “And we invite the community to come out and celebrate with the DC Fire and EMS.”

Anthony Phillips Jr., who’s now an Arlington County firefighter, said he was thankful to be a part of the event.

“There’s a saying: You can’t get to where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been,” Anthony said. “And I feel like this parade exemplifies that, not only for keeping the memories alive for the families, but also for the department, and ensuring that history doesn’t repeat itself in this fashion.”

Arzel Phillips, a student at Bowie State University in Prince George’s County, said he was thankful and glad to be able to speak at the event.

“Losing a father at a very young age has definitely had the trials and tribulations,” he said. “But by the grace of God, and my family, and the support of the fire department — it’s been there every step of the way, and I couldn’t be more appreciative for everything. I’m just very thankful.”

Saturday’s event will go on regardless if it rains.

“Currently, the rain’s supposed to come in the evening,” Fire and EMS Chief John Donnelly said. “Rain or shine, we will be there.”

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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