Bruce D. Sternberger

There is no profile listed for this fallen firefighter.

Michael A. Switala

Michael A. Switala

Submitted by his wife

Michael A. Switala‚ 50‚ was a life member of the City of Lower Burrell in Pennsylvania Fire Company. For the majority of this time‚ he served Company #3 as an EMT and firefighter. In 2000‚ Michael became a member of Company #2 Dive/Rescue Team. He had participated in several divers’ training/certification classes throughout these years and had accompanied the team on various rescue-recovery events. On August 27‚ 2005‚ Michael drowned during a night dive certification class. He was revived‚ but remained unresponsive and died the following day‚ August 28‚ 2005.

Michael was a good and generous man‚ a man of commitment. His life was marked by service to others. As a boy‚ he had attained the rank of Eagle Scout‚ the Scouting system’s highest rank. As a young man‚ while enrolled at Slippery Rock State College‚ Michael joined the Navy (1973). He was a Machinist Mate 2 aboard the USS Andrew Jackson. After the Navy in 1977‚ he married his wife Aimee Bohrer Switala. Together they have three children Heather 27‚ Aaron 25‚ and Matthew 20. We consider them ‘our greatest treasures.’ Michael was a wonderful husband and father who participated in his children’s lives. He was a nurturer‚ instructor‚ protector‚ provider and mentor. His love was enormous. In addition to his wife and children‚ Michael is sadly missed by his mother Genevieve‚ siblings Lydia and Joseph and their spouses‚ as well as several in-laws‚ nieces and nephews.

Michael was an avid hunter and fisherman and shared these activities with his sons and brother. As a family‚ we shared a summer camp in Erie‚ Pennsylvania‚ where we’d swim‚ fish‚ go boating‚ cook out‚ and spend evenings around the fire. Watching Steelers football was also a weekly event for our family.

In honor of their dad and because of the wonderful impact he had on his sons‚ Aaron and Matthew have also joined the fire company as firemen and are also training for the dive/rescue team. Michael died doing what he loved. As my husband‚ Michael was my best friend and my greatest love. We are committed to each other‚ our children‚ and God. To our children‚ he was ‘dad’ – the guy who could do anything and make everything right. Michael always gave his best‚ did his best‚ and to all of us‚ was the best. His love does go on.

Walter L. Sykes Jr.

Walter L. Sykes Jr.

Submitted by his sister

Being an outdoors person‚ after living in Baltimore‚ MD and Roseville‚ CA for a number of years‚ Walter moved to Trinity County‚ CA and finally felt he had found home. Walter was a member of the Lewiston‚ CA Volunteer Fire Department for about a year and a half. We were brought up in a family where community involvement was a normal part of our daily life whether it was building a new church or providing food for the homeless.

Walter continued helping others whenever he could and was proud to be part of the Lewiston Fire Dept. Although he operated a Heating and Air Conditioning business‚ he was a ‘Jack of all Trades’ and could do anything. We used to call him ‘McGuyver’. With his business‚ he would always go out of his way to help people‚ especially the elderly‚ disabled or those with children‚ get the service they needed even if they were not able to afford it.

Walt had a soft spot for our four-legged friends‚ in particular‚ Brittany’s. Mustang Sally was his best friend for thirteen years after which he adopted Dakota. Because of his good nature‚ Walt also found ‘Freebie’ at the entrance to a grocery store and she went home with him as well.

Walt always had a contagious smile‚ kind words and handshake for everyone. It was in Lewiston he finally met his soul mate Shannon. They will meet again.

Although Walt never had children of his own‚ he loved his nephews Greg and Rob Agri as if they were his own. Greg’s wedding is coming up in August and ‘Uncle Walter’ will be a part of the ceremony.

As his only sibling‚ I miss him terribly – he was my best friend‚ but he will always be my brother. I am so very proud of the man he had become.

Walter lived life with gusto. One of his favorite sayings was: Life is short – eat dessert first!

Eduardo B. Teran

Eduardo B. Teran

Submitted by a friend and brother firefighter

Ed lived a rich and fulfilling life. He was in the best business one could ever be a part of‚ the business of saving lives. This was exemplified through his 17 years of service as a Firefighter with the City of Riverside‚ as well as the time he spent as a member of the Urban Search and Rescue California Task Force 6 in which Ed was deployed with after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

His sense of humor‚ strong work ethic and devotion to his job‚ family and his fellow brothers and sisters of the R.F.D. will be remembered as a source of happiness to all of those who knew him.

Ed will also be remembered through his high school‚ St. John Bosco‚ by a scholarship set in his name and through the Riverside City Firefighters Association Local 1067 who will continue to raise money for the Arrowhead Burn Center. Ed played a huge part in raising money for burn survivors and helped each year with sending kids to the annual summertime burn camp with t-shirts‚ hats and backpacks.

Forty-three years of memories will help those who knew him best‚ even in these – the darkest of times‚ to remember him for the great man and hero he was.

Ed is survived by his wife Nanci‚ Daughter Lauren‚ Sisters Sylvia‚ Anita‚ and Maria along with his mother Graciela as well as the Brother and Sisters of the City of Riverside Fire Department and the Riverside City Firefighters Local 1067.

Scott A. Thornton

Scott A. Thornton

Submitted by his family

Scott Allen Thornton‚ 39‚ career captain‚ Summit Township Fire Department‚ died January 20‚ 2005‚ when he became trapped and ran out of air while fighting a house fire. Scott was a third generation firefighter. He began his career as a volunteer with the Cascade Township Fire Department and then followed his grandfather and father by becoming a member of the Summit Township Fire Department where he served for 19 years. He had held various ranks and worked in many capacities‚ most recently as training captain. He volunteered many hours in his church and community and the Jackson County Civil War Muster. He was devoted to his wife Cari and children Emily and Andrew. He will be remembered by his mother Joan‚ his father Bill‚ and his brothers Larry‚ Garry‚ Terry. Two thermal imaging cameras were purchased in Summit Township in Scott’s memory.

Scott was respected by the community and his peers and was loved by his family and friends. He is deeply missed.

Joseph F. Walsh

Joseph F. Walsh

Submitted by his family

Joseph F. Walsh‚ 76‚ had served with Keansburg Fire Department for 54 years‚ as well as Keansburg First Aid Squad and EMS. He was Fire Police for the past couple of years and involved with the Historical Society and Legionnaire’s (veterans). He worked for the KMUA‚ Parking Meters‚ St. Ann’s and St. Joe’s Schools‚ and was a Store Owner for more than 50 years. He had also served our country from 1946-1955 (being on Active duty from 1953-1955) in the Army Reserve Artillery Infantry and the Army Reserves National Guard (cavalry) as a Marksman. He served in the Korean War. His rank was Private First Class being moved to Corporal on June 14‚ 1955. He received a National Defense Service Medal.

Joe had many wonderful qualities. He was caring and always willing to lend a helping hand. He was friends to young and old and was called Blue by his friends from the Fire Department‚ after an old character from the movie Old School. He will always be missed and remembered by all. We love you POP!!

James C. ‘Jimmy’ Webb Jr.

James C. 'Jimmy' Webb Jr.

Submitted by his wife

James C. ‘Jimmy’ Webb‚ Jr. was a firefighter for Bynum for eight years. There is a lot to be said about Jimmy and his involvement‚ not only with the fire department‚ but with church and family. If I was to highlight the years I spent with him it could only be summed in these few words‚ ‘The things he did‚ he did so others may live.’

I married Jimmy in February 2001. We had two boys‚ Caleb‚ 11‚ and Blake‚ 4. And in those short years together‚ his stepson found a father who instilled values into him and his son found an idol. I found a man who was more than a husband; he was a best friend‚ a lover‚ the true half of my soul.

In a brief summary‚ Jimmy joined Bynum in 1997 and graduated from the Mississippi State Fire Academy in 1998. At the time he was #919. He became a certified Emergency Medical Responder in 2000 that eventually lead him to truck/station captain. Then in 2005 he was elected as Assistant Fire Chief‚ #902‚ for Bynum Volunteer Fire Department. This was his calling and he went forth with a fervor that had everyone else being swept along in his wake.

His dedication did not stop with the fire department; he loved his church family and for a while lead the evening devotions at our church. His favorite subject? Daniel 3: 19-25‚ ‘The fourth Man in the Fire’. He loved his family. Everything he did‚ he did with his family in mind. It was not unusual for him to drop anything at a moment’s notice to help family and friends. And it was not unusual to find him with his wife and children at Enid Lake fishing; which was another love he instilled in not only his sons‚ but me‚ also. Jimmy once told me before we married that he knew when it was time for him to be called home‚ it would be while he was ‘doing God’s calling’. On November 5‚ 2005‚ when the tone sounded and he responded in his favorite truck‚ Tanker 95‚ to a structure fire with entrapment is a day that will forever be emblazoned in our memories and a scar upon our hearts. Jimmy was the epitome of firefighting‚ the epitome of a hero. Not because he gave his life doing a job that helped so many people‚ but because he was a man who gave so much and ask for nothing but a smile in return. He is not here with us right now‚ but his love and memory lives forever.

Chad E. Wessels

Chad E. Wessels

Submitted by his wife

Chad E. Wessels‚ 31‚ was not only a loving husband‚ father and son‚ but a devoted firefighter and friend. Chad gave the ultimate sacrifice‚ on December 11‚ 2005‚ Chad died in the line of duty while responding to a structure fire.

Chad started his career in emergency services over 15 years ago as an explorer with the Palm Beach County Fire in Florida. He later joined the Army so he could give back even more to his country. It’s the military that moved Chad to central Texas. Chad may have been transplanted to Texas‚ but he called it home and wouldn’t ever leave. Chad devoted his life not only to his family‚ especially his pride and joy‚ his 7-month old daughter‚ Kaylee‚ but to firefighting and overall helping others. At the time of his death‚ Chad was a full-time firefighter for Fort Hood Fire Department‚ a part-time firefighter for the City of Marble Falls‚ and a Captain with the Briggs Volunteer Fire Department.

Chad did not need a title‚ nor recognition for anything that he did‚ he considered a handshake (he preferred hugs) and a thank you the best recognition ever. However‚ he had been recognized several times‚ he was awarded EMT of the Year in 1998‚ Civilian Firefighter of the Quarter in August of 2004‚ Emergency Service Person of the Year for 2004‚ and Firefighter of the Quarter Posthumously in January 2006.

When Chad joined the Briggs FD he wasn’t living in their jurisdiction yet so he would drive up to approximately 25 miles one way to help with ANY situation they had. He joined the department to help improve it‚ he had so many goals‚ many not accomplished yet. He then later moved to the small town with an eagerness never seen that community. Everyone was so excited to see someone so young wanting to help and getting involved with the community. He lived to help anyone in need‚ from stopping and helping someone change a flat tire‚ to building a haunted house and giving hay rides to the children of the community for Halloween. Even though Chad loved his volunteer department‚ part of his dreams were reached when he was selected to work for Fort Hood‚ Chad considered it an honor to be a firefighter on the military base.

Chad never met a stranger‚ and he called everyone he met a friend. Chad always had a smile for you and it could light up a room. Chad gave his life trying to help a neighbor whose house was on fire. The loss of this wonderful man has not only devastated his family‚ but has been deeply felt by thousands of lives he had touched. He has been and will be truly missed.

Chad was not only my husband‚ and friend‚ but also my HERO.

Max B. Willard

Max B. Willard

Submitted by his children

Our Dad‚ Max B. Willard‚ died in the line of duty while fighting a 350-acre forest fire that burned in the Marvin-Shortt Gap area of Buchanan County‚ Virginia. He served his country and community. Dad was a United States Army veteran of the Korean Conflict and a 30-year volunteer fireman and EMT (serving 10 years as Chief) with the Oakwood Volunteer Fire Department and a member of the Oakwood Lions Club‚ Shriners and the American Legion. A past member of the Buchanan County Planning Commission and was on the Social Services Board. He also maintained a full-time profession as an accountant.

Dad had three passions 1) the love of life‚ 2) his family and 3) his community. He led an extremely active life‚ very little seemed to slow him down. He had a ‘work-hard‚ play-hard’ attitude. He loved being with family and friends out on the golf course‚ skiing down a mountain or deer hunting. At the age of 69‚ he was just beginning to think about slowing down.

Many of those who attended Dad’s funeral spoke to us about the role he played in their lives. Most said he was a ‘father figure’ to them. He was always there to give a helping hand or advice (which he so loved to do whether solicited or not!). Dedication always comes to mind when thinking about our father. He put his life on the line often to help others. A childhood friend of ours said he saved her life and she is forever grateful.

A representative from the Department of Forestry spoke about his dedication and explained to us that dad knew what he was doing that day when he picked up the fire rake and headed up the mountain to the fire. He was doing a job he loved to do.

Dad‚ you will forever be in our hearts.

Justin Wisniewski

Justin  Wisniewski

Submitted by his parents

Justin was 18 years old when he joined the Southington Volunteer Fire Department in January of 2005. On Saturday‚ April 2‚ 2005‚ during a training session‚ Justin fell 20 feet from a ladder‚ and passed away on April 3‚ 2005. Justin had a bright and promising future. He was considerate‚ inquisitive and fun loving. His potential was limitless. Our family consists of my husband and myself and our two sons‚ Matt & Justin‚ both college students.

Justin was 18 years old and a full time college student. He wanted to be a child psychiatrist‚ to work with troubled children. He was a volunteer at our church and with the local Lions Club. He just earned his Eagle Scout‚ which is the highest rank in Boy Scouts‚ and very difficult to achieve. Justin’s most recent endeavor was to join the local Volunteer Fire Department in our town‚ just like his older brother had done 4 years earlier. Matt and Justin were very close and did many things together. They were looking forward to being in the department together and going on calls together.

Justin had a smile for everyone and was always willing to help. He comes from a large family and has many friends. Justin was always there to help each and every one of them‚ with his infectious laughter‚ great smile or by using his physical strength. He put the needs of his family and friends before his own on many occasions.

Justin was the type of kid who would try any job. He started his paper route when he was 12 and kept that until he was 16 when‚ in his words‚ he could get a real job. I always felt that anyone who got up at 5:30 in the morning to deliver papers had a real job. He worked in a Chiropractors office filing and dealing with patients‚ and also worked at a local nursery doing landscaping and building fish ponds. He loved all of these jobs because he loved dealing with people. When Justin was 15 he built me a beautiful koi pond in the back yard which I always loved‚ but appreciate even more now.

Justin’s real passion was his dirt bike and his newly acquired motorcycle. He always wanted a motorcycle and his goal was to have one before he graduated high school. He worked hard‚ saved his money and reached his goal. He was so proud when he rode that bike to school on the last day. He couldn’t wait for spring to come so he could get the bike out and ride. Unfortunately that day never came.

Even in death Justin was able to give the most precious gift he had‚ himself. His organ and tissue donations not only gave the gift of life to four people‚ but sight to two others. When our boys got their driver’s licenses they signed up to be organ donors. We were so proud of them. We have been donors for many years‚ to see them make that decision on their own‚ and at such a young age was surprising. But then it shouldn’t have been because they always helped anyone who needed it. Justin was a kid who was full of life‚ laughter and fun and if he can’t be here with us at least we know that he was able to give that life‚ laughter and fun to someone else.

We held our 1st Annual Ride4Justin motorcycle benefit on May 7‚ 2006 to help fund the ‘Justin Wisniewski Firefighter Scholarship Fund’ that we‚ along with Southington Volunteer Fire Department Co. 1‚ have started in Justin’s memory. Feel free to visit to read more about the ride. There truly was no better way to honor Justin than with a motorcycle ride.

Submitted by his cousin

Justin was training to be a volunteer firefighter when he had an accident on April 2‚ 2005. He fell approximately 20 feet from a 24 foot ground ladder. He passed away on April 3‚ 2005.

Justin was also an Eagle Scout.