Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fire Captain Jan Chatelain - you will be missed

I don't like to announce when I go out of town until I've returned because of the whole " someone's going to see I'm gone and break into the house" theory of things. Now that I'm back I can talk about my trip to LA. Unfortunately, it wasn't a vacation - it was for my sister-in-law's memorial service.

Jan passed away a couple weeks ago from a job related cancer. That's a term you don't see too often unless you know someone in the fire department. You see, fire fighters work with smoke and asbestos and other toxins that increase their chances of getting cancer to way more than the regular people. They know this going in and take on the job anyway. If you look at the reasons firefighter pass they are almost always heart attacks or job related cancer. This is a fact I didn't know until recently.

My SIL was a Fire Captain for LA County. She was the 13th woman to become a fire fighter in LA County. She is the first female captain to pass while on active duty. She was in line to become a Battalion Chief. Jan was a force to be reckoned with. A strong woman who knew what her passion was and she went for it.

Last Saturday we all gathered to remember this remarkable person. The we being friends and family and what felt like the entire LA County fire department. It was a hot day and about 200 firefighters showed up with their trucks, rigs, cars, paramedic vehicles and more. There was a giant flag hanging from two ladder trucks over the street we drove in on. The department provided my brother and me with an official escort for the day so we didn't have to drive or worry about anything but showing up and being amazed at how much organization and care went into the memorial.

Chief Daryl Osby, fire chief of LA County, gave a talk about Jan and her service. He also had some personal words about her that showed he really knew her. There was an honor guard with bag pipes and it all ended with a flyby of 2 helicopters. Later we learned they held off heading out to a brush fire for one minutes so they could complete the flyby.

The LA Fire Department is amazing. The 2 chaplains (Matt and Rick) who spent time with us were great guys. The union rep from Local 1014, Andy, had everything so in control and did so with such care. The term family really does description the fire dept. By the day before the service Andy had already made sure Jan would be included in this year's service at the fire fighter memorial in Sacramento and was working on getting her included in the National memorial in Colorado for next year's service. Thanks everyone, you made a tough time easier to endure for my brother!

Through all this I was knitting. On the plane, at my brother's house and now at home. I've designed a shawl that is basic, strong and has some feminine accents to it. It reminds me of Jan. When I've completed the shawl it will be for sale as a PDF download. The proceeds will be going to a group to support firefighter families. I'm talking to Chaplain Matt about which specific group and will let everyone know when we decide the best one. He's checking around to see if there was a group Jan spoke of or worked with and that's what we will send the proceeds to. It seems so little but its what I can do to honor Jan and all the members of her department that give their lives to protect others.

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