The Porter Fire
Department dedicated the Lewis T. Craig Sr. Heroes Memorial Garden and
welcomed its new fire engine Sunday. Fire Chief Jay Craig opened the event
with a tribute to his father, the late Porter Fire Chief of 45 years, Lewis
T. Craig Sr.: “Without his years of service, we wouldn’t be standing here
Craig said the late
great Chief went by many namesÑincluding Lewis. Lewie, Chief, and Papa, but
“out of all those names, the one he was most proud of was ‘Chief.’”
The Chief wanted to
complete a memorial garden at the Fire Department and see through the
Department’s purchase of a new engine before he retired, but his health
precluded him from doing so, Craig said. Chief Lewis T. Craig Sr. died
shortly after he retired Jan. 8, 2018.
to the garden and flagpoles on the Fire Department’s north lawn last year,
the Porter Town Council passed an ordinance naming the space after the late
Chief. Council President Greg Stinson read that ordinance for the crowd
Sunday and presented a framed copy to Carol Craig, the late Chief’s wife.
The crowd then gathered outside to watch the Porter Firefighters raise five
flags--the American flag, the Indiana flag, the PFD flag, the Armed Services
flag, and the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag.
Porter Deputy Fire
Chief Dan Branham said the late Chief began his career of service in the
Vietnam War as a member of the U.S. Army. He began serving Porter and its
surrounding communities in 1973, while he was raising a family and working
at Bethlehem Steel, and went on to be an EMS worker, a Porter Police
Officer, and Animal Control Officer before retiring as Fire Chief. Branham
said the Chief spent as much time at the PFD as he did in the house he paid
for, and the Department has plans to make the Garden even better in his
name, including adding statues and connecting it to the bike path.
Tributes to the
Chief don’t stop there. A famous quote of his, “901 En Route!” is etched
onto a bell on the front of the Department’s new engine that the Town bought
with a combination of Fire Department funds and the proceeds of a general
obligation (GO) bond last year.
The new engine is
replacing the current Engine 911, a 1988 model acquired under former Chief
Raymond Wesley in 1988, Craig said. The Porter Fire Department’s motto
“Always Forward” is painted in gold letters above the rear window of the
engine’s cab on either side.
PFD Captain Marc
Piazza explained the depth of the motto: “There’s a lot more behind that
than just a battle cry,” he said. “It defines who we are.”
firefighters elect to become something larger than themselves when they
begin their service--they accept the costs that come with the rewards of the
job and commit to always run forth toward danger. “We know it is worth it to
help people when they need us most, and that is why we keep going: always
forward,” Piazza said.
In keeping with
other Porter traditions, the new engine is colored white over red with a
double white strip and has a top-mounted pump, offering the operator a safe
place to stand and enhanced view of emergency scenes, according to Craig.
Craig said retiring
Engine 911’s memory will live on. “It is the first engine I ever drove, the
engine I rode to my first fire, and the engine that took Chief and Safety
Officer James Branham on their last calls,” he said. “Those memories will be
New Engine 911 is a
Spartan chassis with a box custom-built and outfitted by Alexis Fire
Equipment. It’s made to serve the Department for the next 25 years, and
features airbags with rollover protection and battery-powered extrication
equipment with back-up.
Craig ended the
celebration Sunday by spraying the new engine with water from the retiring
engine, then the Porter Firefighters pushed it backward into its bay to
conduct its first equipment inspection to officially put it in service.
The wetting of a
new fire apparatus is a tradition that dates back to the late 1800s when
local clergy used to bless horse-drawn pumpers and ladder carts, according
to PFD Lieutenant Brian Mullholland. Mullholland said such early fire
apparatuses, after the horses were washed down and untethered, would be
pushed backward into their stations.
As they ride,
Always Forward, with the Chief’s memory literally etched on the front of the
new engine to lead them, the PFD will continue Chief’s legacy of dedication
that caused him to leave his wife in the store to answer calls and left many
to wonder if he slept in his truck, Craig said.