That was ruled to be the case with Townsend Township Fire Capt. Charles Horning, who died shortly before noon Oct. 13, 2015. Horning died from a heat attack about six hours after responding to a fire call. He left behind a wife and children. Current fire chief Michael Hahn estimated Horning served more 10 years at the volunteer department.
His life-saving efforts throughout those years will be commemorated at 11 a.m. Saturday at the statue of the Fallen Firefighter Memorial on Shady Lane Drive in Norwalk. His name will join the five other local firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty.
The events leading up to his untimely death seemed routine.
Hahn said he and Horning responded to a call around 6 a.m., before most of the other men had even gone to their day jobs. A caller had reported someone had thrown a burning sack of rags into the old fire station’s picnic pavilion, Hahn said, adding the fire was “pretty much out by the time we got there.” The fire was insignificant enough, not even damaging the structure. The men went about their days as normal afterward.
“Of course as volunteer firefighters, we went to everyday jobs, and he (Horning) was a truck driver,” Hahn said. “He was working at his job and I guess I was told he was driving his truck and went made and his delivery. Afterward, he was in the truck sitting there a while, I guess, and a person went out there to check on him, and when they found him there, he was slumped over his wheel.”
Horning died from a heart attack, which was deemed to have been related to the fire earlier that day. Horning said the process has to be approved at the state level when someone dies “in the line of duty.” The chief said there are some criteria that need to be met, typically any natural cause of death that occurs within 24 hours of a call is ruled as dying “in the line of duty” for firefighters.
“He was a good firefighter, very involved,” Hahn said. “He always was willing to help out and to help younger guys train. Not just the younger guys, though — he wanted to help train the whole department, to help the whole department get better as a whole and be the best. ... His favorite was vehicle extraction training. He loved that.”
Saturday’s ceremony will serve as a commemorative service for his family, his service and his dedication to the community. In the firefighter community, Hahn said it’s important to remember the fallen.
“As firefighters, we’re a pretty close knit bunch of people,” he said. “When someone goes down in line of duty that death ... it affects everybody. It makes us more aware of things that could happen to us either on a call or after. It makes us remember that we’re not necessarily safe after a call just because it’s over. And it’s really important to our firefighter family to remember our fallen brothers.”
Horning’s name will join these firefighters already engraved on the monument:
• Chief William J. Bascom, Feb. 2, 1929, of Norwalk
• Chief Van Barklow, Feb. 7, 1936, of Bellevue
• Firefighter Edward Haas, April 25, 1970, of Norwalk
• Firefighter Mark A. Didion, Dec. 19, 1976, of Plymouth
• Lt. James E. Harvey, Aug. 18, 1988, of Bellevue