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107 added to National Fallen Firefighters Memorial

EMMITSBURG, Md. (AP/WUSA9) - U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer is among those paying tribute to 107 firefighters at an annual service in Emmitsburg.

The addition of their names Sunday to the National Firefighters Memorial caps a weekend of activities honoring their service and their families' sacrifice. The memorial service honors 98 firefighters who died last year and nine from previous years.

The names include those of 19 Arizona firefighters killed in a 2013 canyon fire - the largest loss of life for U.S. firefighters since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The fallen also include 10 first responders who were among 15 people killed in a fertilizer plant explosion in Central Texas last year.

The service at the National Fire Academy is sponsored by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and the U.S. Fire Administration.

Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-5) delivered the following remarks at the 33rd Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service:

"Last month, I stood with many of you at the west front of the U.S. Capitol Building as American flags began their journey here in memory of our fallen heroes.

"And as they wave in the wind over the homes of family members, they will represent the sorrow and the gratitude of our entire nation.

"And this year our nation mourns the loss of too many courageous, fallen heroes, including the 'hot-shot' crew of nineteen who perished in the Yarnell fire in Arizona, whose memorial I attended with Vice President Biden in Phoenix, Arizona, and those who lost their lives when a chemical plant exploded in West Texas.

"This year, here in Maryland, we are keeping in our thoughts and prayers the families of David Barr of Perryville and Gene Kirchner of Baltimore who fell on the fire line. 

"Serving as the Co-Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus has been the honor of a lifetime, because it has afforded me the opportunity to meet so many of our fire service champions and their families.

"It has also provided me with a chance to raise awareness in Congress of the extraordinary work you do and the service you perform. 

"And it has given me an opportunity to work with the National Fallen Fire Fighter Foundation and other organizations to secure greater funding and resources for our nation's fire companies and for the families of the fallen.

"Recently, we were successful in securing a $1.3 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security to support the Foundation's 'Everyone Goes Home' Program. This program supports research into heart attacks, the leading cause of death for firefighters on the line.

"And it will help combat firefighter suicide – a terrible and tragic occurrence that we must do more to prevent.

"These funds will also help us better understand the forms of cancer that strike firefighters at a higher rate.

"We must continue to do everything possible as a nation to prevent firefighter and emergency medical service deaths and to support the families left behind, which is why I will keep pushing for more FIRE and SAFER grants, as well as ensure that families of the fallen are receiving the public safety officers' benefit. 

"We must always remember that when a firefighter loses his or her life on the line, it is not only the family members who have suffered a loss but the entire community that firefighter served and strengthened. 

"The men and women memorialized here in Emmitsburg represent the best of America.

"As they gave their all to keep us safe, we must give our all to keep their memories alive and to support the wives, husbands, sons and daughters they left behind, and yes the mothers and fathers.

"We have a sacred duty to them and a responsibility that we cannot shirk. 

"Just as we are charged with standing by those who continue to serve each day – to keep faith with them, to support their work, and to keep them safe.

"When firefighters utter these words from the fire fighter's prayer – and I quote:

'If, according to my fate, I am to lose my life; please bless with your protecting hand my children and my wife or husband.'

"We must be that hand of protection that carries out the work of that blessing.

"May God bless our fallen heroes, their families, and a nation grateful for those who have sacrificed on its behalf."