About a dozen local firefighters are traveling to Maryland this weekend to memorialize Fremont County's late deputy chief Clarence "Speed" Hartbank, who died in 2016 after suffering injuries on a fire scene the year before.
Hartbank will be honored Sunday, along with 75 other firefighters who died in 2016 and 20 firefighters who died in previous years, during the 36th Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
The first full week in October is recognized annually as National Fire Prevention Week.
Injured in service
The 79-year-old died Jan. 13, 2016, at the Swedish Medical Center in Colorado, where he had been receiving treatment for burns he suffered Sept. 10, 2015, in a fire on Triangle Ranch Road northwest of Riverton.
In the years since, Fremont County Fire Protection District chief Craig Haslam said firefighters who knew him have been working to heal the emotional wounds they suffered as a result of his death.
He said Sunday's service will provide some closure for those who mourn.
"You're remembering something you're trying to put behind you," he said, adding, "It's an honor you don't want to have."
This will be the first time Haslam has attended the memorial service, though he has watched it remotely in the past. The ceremony involves members of the fire service, honor guard units and pipe and drum units from across the country, according to a press release; thousands are expected to attend, including families and friends of the fallen firefighters, members of congress and other dignitaries.
During the service, Hartbank's name will be added to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial on the fire academy grounds.
"They're honoring his memory, what he stood for, and the fire service and sacrifice he made - not only him but his family also," Haslam said.
Families also will receive flags flown over the U.S. Capitol and the National Monument. Haslam said the local firefighters will accept the flag on behalf of Hartbank's wife and will present it to her at a later date.
Five-decade fire career
Hartbank was a volunteer firefighter for more than 50 years, according to previous reports. He rose through the ranks of the Morton-Kinnear Fire Department holding nearly every major position there, including chief. In addition to his many local duties, he also was a member of the Missouri Valley Division of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Wyoming Fire Chiefs Association, the Wyoming Firefighters Association and the Wyoming Rural Firemen's Association.
He was described as instrumental in the process of establishing the countywide fire district, for which he was a leader and mentor.