Although charges have been filed against a suspect in connection with Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman's death, the loss still cuts deep for those who knew him and worked with him.
Dozens of active duty and retired firefighters joined residents early Wednesday morning at the Fallen Firefighter and EMS Provider Memorial in Hamilton for a memorial ceremony to honor Wolterman on the one-year anniversary of his death in the line of duty.
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“This is the anniversary of a really hard day for us, the Hamilton fire community and all the fire communities around us,” said Tony Harris, president of the Hamilton Local IAFF 20, mentioning Colerain and Fairfield Twp. fire departments, where Wolterman worked before his job with Hamilton.
“This is something that we haven’t had to go through in a very long time,” he said. Wolterman’s death was the department’s first fatality in the line of duty since 1971.
“This last year has been a challenging year, but it’s been a very positive year. We’ve seen the Hamilton community and firefighting community rally behind us,” Harris said.
Fire trucks lined the street in front of the memorial Wednesday, and members of Fire Station 25, where Wolterman was assigned, embraced each other and firefighters from around the area.
Members of Fire Station 25 then laid a wreath at the memorial and a moment of silence was held.
Mayor Patrick Moeller called Wolterman’s death one of the worst days the city has ever witnessed.
“ I will never forget the day and do not want to forget the day that he courageously entered the home to save lives,” Moeller said. “The tragedy is a reminder that our public safety personnel are daily only seconds away from potential life threatening events.”
On Dec. 28, 2015, 28-year-old Wolterman responded to the scene of a house fire in which dispatch believed elderly residents were trapped inside. In reality, no one was there. The homeowner and his wife were celebrating their anniversary in Las Vegas.
Wolterman fell through the first floor of the burning home and died of smoke inhalation while attempting to investigate.
Authorities later determined that the fire had been started deliberately, making Wolterman’s death a homicide.
Lester Parker, 66, the owner of the home, is charged with murder and aggravated arson. A February trial date has been set for Parker.
“We look forward to finding out the why and who and how (of Wolterman’s death),” Harris said.
WCPO, a news partner of the Journal-News, contributed to this report.