BOISE — The ladders of two firetrucks stretched high above Grove Street with an American flag flying in the middle near the Linen Building in downtown Boise Thursday night where hundreds gathered to honor two fallen firefighters.
Capt. Todd Neal Tompkins, 48, and co-pilot First Officer Ronnie Edwin Chambless, 40, both of Boise, were killed in a plane crash in Utah June 3 as they worked to fight the White Rock Fire.
The men were many things to many people, but at the memorial service they were honored as heroes who died protecting all of us.
Tim Murphy, director of fire and aviation for the Bureau of Land Management, said the men were dedicated to their jobs, even when things could get tough and risky at times. He reminded the audience that firefighters are protectors. They save lives, homes and even irreplaceable natural resources.
Tom Harbour, director of fire and aviation for the U.S. Forest Service, said three words came to his mind: Freedom, choice and honor. In this country, he said, people have the freedom to choose what they want to do and Tompkins and Chambless chose to do honorable work.
Tompkins’ longtime friend, Pete Martenson, who he grew up with, spoke about the new descriptor Tompkins had earned. He said Tompkins was a husband, father, son, brother, friend and now, a hero too.
The services were led by Larry Zajanc who also spoke about his friend and fellow firefighter Chambless. As a teenager, Chambless worked at Witchita Valley Airport in Texas to pay for flying lessons. When Zajanc met him years later, he was relieved to discover Chambless was just the type of guy that you could stand being stuck in a small cockpit with for hours.
Tompkins’ daughters spoke about his love for skiing and his devotion to them over the years. And according to daughter Paige, “he put the ‘odd’ in Todd.”
Chambless’ friends said he always had a love of flying that took him around the world to India and Africa. He also enjoyed being a member of the Hash House Harriers running club.
Family members were presented with a letter from Pres. and Mrs. Obama as well as a bronze statue that is a replica of a nine-foot-tall statue that stands at the National Interagency Fire Center.
Today, flags will be flown at half staff across the Forest Service in honor of Tompkins and Chambless.