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Fallen RVFC Firefighter Awarded Medal of Honor

Photo of Firefighter Gene Kirchner.
Firefighter Gene Kirchner

Towson, Maryland (May 8, 2013) - Fire Chief John Hohman has awarded fallen Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Co. (RVFC) Firefighter Gene Kirchner the Medal of Honor, the Fire Service's highest honor.

Chief Hohman presented the Medal of Honor to Kirchner's mother at his funeral, held Sunday, May 5 at Har Sinai Congregation in Owings Mills. More than 1,000 people - including representatives of fire companies from across Maryland and the mid-Atlantic - attended the service and burial at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.

The Medal of Honor is awarded to members who, "in the course of firefighting or rescue operations, intelligently perform acts of extraordinary heroism or bravery in direct firefighting or in the saving, or attempted saving, of the lives of others. The action shall be above and beyond the call of duty, at the grave risk of personally being killed or seriously injured. The actions shall also be with knowledge of the risk undertaken."

Kirchner died May 2 at the University of Maryland R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center of injuries sustained in an April 24 three-alarm house fire at 19 Hanover Road in Reisterstown. A seven-year veteran of RVFC, he was 25.

"End of Watch" Radio Transmission

At the graveside service, Fire dispatchers formally recorded Kirchner's "end of watch" with this radio transmission.

19 Hanover Road Fire

Photo of funeral for Firefighter Gene Kirchner.
Funeral for Firefighter Gene Kirchner.

At 1:09 a.m. on April 24, Baltimore County Fire Department (BCoFD) crews were dispatched to a dwelling fire in the unit block of Hanover Road. First arriving units from the Franklin station (career) and the Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Company found a Victorian-style home with heavy fire showing. A man was reported trapped on the second floor of the home. Four other occupants were able to escape on their own.

At 1:29 a.m., a mayday was called for a firefighter down on the second floor. The firefighter, Kirchner, was removed from the home and transported to Northwest Hospital for medical treatment. He was quickly transferred to Shock Trauma.

A civilian, Steven Starr, 58, who lived at the Hanover Road home, also died in the fire.

Investigation

The Police Department continues its investigation into the cause of the fire.

Meanwhile, the Fire Department has begun an internal investigation, required under Baltimore County Fire Department regulations when a member is seriously injured or killed in the line of duty. That investigation includes Police fire investigators, BCoFD's Health and Safety officer and a representative of the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen's Association. The investigation, expected to take several months, will explore the sequence of events and the policies and procedures implemented during this incident.