Thousands pay tribute to fallen heroes

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By Carol A. Clark

Community members stood in lines that wrapped around the building Wednesday to honor firefighters who’ve lost their lives in the line of duty. During the annual nationwide event, sponsored locally by Baskin-Robbins owner Dan Sena, ice cream scoops were on sale for 31 cents.

Sena said 3,016 scoops were served in a four-hour time period.

“This year to date there have been 44 deaths nationally with the annual average being 100-110 deaths,” said Los Alamos Assistant Fire Chief/Fire Marshall Mike Thompson. “This event helps to provide support to the families left behind.”

Firefighters posed with community members in front of firetrucks. Vivian Medina and her team from the fire department processed the photos and presented them to the community members.

“This has really been a successful project,” she said.”The guys are really enjoying interacting with the public and are very thankful so many people came out to honor the fallen firefighters.”

Firefighter Micah Brittelle has lived in Los Alamos for 23 years. He’s been a firefighter for just over five years.

“This gives us a chance in shifts so all of us get to come out and contribute a little bit and honor the fallen firefighters,” he said.

This year, the ice cream store went with a Hawaiian motif. Los Alamos National Bank provided 24 employees to help serve.

“This has been crazy,” said Santiago Hildago, who has been on the job as a drive-up teller for some seven months, of the non-stop crowd. “It’s a lot tougher than I thought – it makes your arm hurt, that’s for sure. But it’s fun and it’s nice to see my customers from the bank over here.”

“We collected some $300  in the boot for the families,” LANB Operations Officer Melissa Romero said. “It’s really great to be a part of such a worthy cause.”

Los Alamos High School boys track coach Wil Stolpe was in high spirits in the middle of the organized mayhem.

“This has been so much fun,” Stolpe said. “Being a track coach, loud is what I do.”

Sena praised the collaboration. “Between the bank and the firefighters and us, it’s a real community effort,” he said.

LAHS junior Megan Nystrom, 16, also enjoyed the heavily attended event.

“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “It gets the community together ... I think the firefighters do a really good job and it’s neat to honor them for what they do and to honor those who gave the ultimate price.”