Family irked by omission of name on plaque at Chattanooga firefighter memorial

Family irked by omission of name on plaque at Chattanooga firefighter memorial

February 1st, 2013 by Beth Burger in Local Regional News

Family members of the two most recent firefighters who died in the line of duty view a new plaque honoring their memory Monday at the Firefighters Memorial on Georgia Avenue. From left are Nicole Daughetee, Linda Daughetee, Debbie Bowman Henderson and Chattanooga Fire Department Capt. Don Bowman.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.


Anyone who knows of firefighters they believe should be included on the memorial can contact Red Bank Fire Chief Mark Mathews at 423-877-7252.

Sirens wailing from fire engines would always draw the children in the Workman household to the front yard or to the windows.

Dottie Workman Womack, who was the youngest of five girls, would look for the impressive red truck. Her father, Paul Workman, was an engineer at the Chattanooga Fire Department No. 5 engine house. He was always driving.

Thursday marked 71 years to the day since her father's on-duty death fighting a house fire at Rossville Boulevard and Dorris Street.

"We saw the engine go back. We didn't know Dad wasn't driving," said Womack, who was only 12 at the time.

Memories of her father returned after she read Tuesday's Times Free Press story on the Firefighter Memorial Fountain downtown. Her father's name was not among the 13 names listed on one of two bronze plaques installed at the memorial.

"The only thing I could think of was, 'Why did they overlook dad?'" Womack said.

Red Bank Fire Chief Mark Mathews, who headed up the project to put the plaques at the memorial, said the research to learn the names of fallen firefighters was challenging.

He visited grave sites. He checked with the Tennessee Fallen Firefighters Memorial. Some of the local firefighters' names are missing from the state memorial, he said.

"We've got to get that straightened out, too," he said.

Mathews also checked with the National Fire Academy for any names to add. He read through local history books and found new names. A retired fire chief was able to add one name to the list.

On the local level, no one has ever kept track of fallen firefighters' names, he said.

"It's a shame that the Chattanooga Fire Department does not have a list of line-of-duty deaths," he said. "We figured some would fall through the cracks. Nothing was in there about Workman. I just can't believe nobody keeps a record."

Workman, who was 47 when he died, had a heart attack after dragging a long hose line across a field.

"I saw him lean against the house and then slide to the ground," said a captain who was interviewed by the Chattanooga Times in 1942.

Workman's name will be added to the list at the monument now that fire officials are aware of him, Mathews said.

Others in the public safety community have raised questions about some of the names unveiled on the list this week. In some cases, firefighters died from heart attacks after their shifts were over.

Bruce Garner, public information officer for the Chattanooga Fire Department, said there's a lot of discussion that goes into ruling a firefighter's death as a line-of-duty death. Sometimes firefighter deaths are ruled work-related if they happen within 24 hours of a shift, he said.

"It doesn't stop when you leave the fire station," Garner said. "If someone leaves the station and dies, it's the result of the strenuous work on that shift."