Members of the Tamaqua fire department, and including Middleport, Tuscarora and New Ringgold, and other Schuylkill county fire companies, took part in a dedication ceremony recently for the late Sen. James J. Rhoades, who died after suffering injuries he received in a car crash in Monroe County in 2008.
Rhoades represented Schuylkill, and parts of Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe and Northampton counties.
Tamaqua firefighter Brian Connely, Memorial Committee Chairman, stated, "Sen. Rhoades was not only a supporter of all our local emergency responders, he was also a strong supporter of our Schuylkill county training facilities."
A dedication plaque was unveiled at the multi-purpose fire training building at the Schuylkill County Fire School in Frackville. The ceremony was held in conjunction with the Schuylkill County Fallen Firefighters annual memorial service which was held on the 30th anniversary of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend and the Schuylkill Historical Fire Society's annual muster. The dedicated building, also called fire training tower, enables firefighters to utilize various forms of training via ladders, ropes, aerial operations, sprinkler systems and hose advancement.
During the ceremony, Mary Edith Rhoades, Rhoades' wife, said Rhoades would be honored to know his efforts dealing with the fire service are greatly appreciated. She added, "He truly never forgot volunteer firefighters. He would be so indebted."
Two of Tamaqua's antique firetrucks, to include the 1977 ladder truck, were also on display during the ceremony. Also on hand for the dedication ceremony were State Sen. Dave Argall, and Representatives Tim Holden, Jerry Knowles, Mike Tobash and Neal Goodman. Knowles, who is also a volunteer firefighter, stated, "Being a volunteer, Rhoades recognized the importance of volunteer firefighters as he was also a volunteer firefighter," adding, "He was one of you."
Following the dedication, a memorial service was held honoring the 34 firefighters who died in the line of duty in Schuylkill County. Rev. John Fields, spoke about the courage of firefighters and dedication of duty. Fields added that in 2010, over 70 firefighters were killed nationwide, including seven in Pennsylvania.
Held along with the service, fire apparatus were on hand providing pumping water high over the training grounds while providing other demonstrations. Connely added, ""This was just a small way that we could show how thankful we all are for his contributions in an effort to keep his legacy alive."