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Editorial: Fitting tribute for firefighters

Fallen firefighters

Justin Monroe

Victor Isler

March 7, 2008, is seared into the memories of Salisbury firefighters, their families and their city. That’s the day a huge fire broke out at Salisbury Millwork. Before the blaze was extinguished, it had taken the lives of two brave firefighters.

Memorializing Justin Monroe and Vic Isler by naming the city’s next fire station in their honor is a fitting tribute, as Fire Chief Bob Parnell said to the City Council last week. Though the station to be built on Cedar Springs Road may still be referred to as “No. 6” in some situations, the building and its name will be tangible reminders of two men who dedicated their lives to protecting others and died in that pursuit. Message to firefighters: It could happen to you.

Salisbury firefighters tackled the millwork fire with determination and skill, as always, but it became a more deadly situation than anyone realized going into it.

Justin Monroe was only 19, but he had years of experience around firefighting. The young North Rowan High School graduate had begun his fire service career as a junior firefighter with the Miller’s Ferry Fire Department and had been promoted to lieutenant. He was pursuing his fire protection degree and was a “rising star in the Salisbury Fire Department,” as Parnell said.

Beside him at the millwork fire was Vic Isler, 40, who had worked as an EMT for the New York City Fire Department and then as a firefighter for Long Island, New York. But no amount of experience could prepare Isler and Monroe for what happened that day as a firewall collapsed, trapping them inside the burning building. Capt. Rick Barkley, injured as he fought the fire alongside them, managed to get out a mayday call. Water from a gash in the hose helped Barkley survive.

The deaths of Monroe and Isler shook firefighters across the county to their core, a tragic reminder that something can go wrong despite all the training and backup and equipment in the world.

A 30-day period for public input on the station name has begun, and a committee headed by Brent Lyerly will give the council a final recommendation. You can weigh in by email or phone call with either of these:

• Parnell: 638-4464, bparn@salisburync.gov

• Lyerly: brentlyerly@hotmail.com

There’s no reason to think the City Council would deny Parnell’s request, but expressing your support could help ensure the city does the right thing. These fallen firefighters gave their lives for Salisbury. We should honor their service and sacrifice with the Justin Monroe and Vic Isler Fire Station.

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