By Maureen Wade
On Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009, Houston lost two heroes in a house fire; Captain James Harlow and Probationary Firefighter Damion Hobbs. Together, the Houston Aeros and Peoria Rivermen raised $5000 in memoriam of the two fallen heroes. Six Aeros players visited the Val Jahnke Fire Training Academy and Houston Fire Station #26 on Thursday, December 10, 2009 to pay their respects to the fallen Captain and Firefighter, and also to experience what it is like to be a firefighter!
Houston Aeros’ Robbie Earl, Maxim Noreau, Matt Kassian, Clayton Stoner, Brandon Rogers, and Danny Irmen were greeted with gratitude from Sheri Czekanski and Chief Josef Gregory for helping to raise the $5000 with the Peoria Rivermen last year. Chief Gregory made remarks on the many similarities between firefighters and the Aeros players, including the concept of being a family. The firefighters have their families at home, but they also have their family at the fire station. They travel together, eat, sleep, and work together as a team—as do the Aeros players.
During their tour of the Val Jahnke Facility, the Aeros got to see the different obstacle courses and exercises that the Academy uses to train the cadets and certify firefighters. The most exciting part of the outdoor tour came when the players got a chance to watch four cadets in training use a hose to put out a car fire and then all six players were able to take turns manning the hose! Once the players were done learning how to use the fire hose properly, they climbed to the top of the ladder on a fire truck for a photo op.
After visiting the Val Jahnke Training Facility, they headed over to Houston Fire Station #26 where they were given a tour of the station and received an insight in to the day in the life of a firefighter. The players also got to enjoy a delicious home cooked meal that consisted of fried fish, rice, red beans, cornbread, and pie with the Captain and some fire fighters. Once their stomachs were full, the Captain was proud to show the Aeros players the onsite memorial for Captain James Harlow and Probationary Firefighter Damion Hobbs that they had helped raise money for. While admiring the memorial, the feeling of being a “family” was reiterated to the players.
The Aeros were humbled and honored to be able to help remember the two men who lost their lives while trying to save others. What the players experienced this day was something that they'll never soon forget. To show their appreciation once again, the players distributed gift bags to their new firefighting family, which included t-shirts, blankets, and tickets. They all hope to return to the Val Jahnke Training Facility in January to take part in a bit of training themselves!
The Aeros would like to thank the Val Jahnke Training Facility and Houston Fire Station #26 for their hospitality to the Aeros players. The Aeros are excited to see the family of the Station #26 at Guns N’ Hoses night on Monday, December 28, 2009 where the Aeros are going to honor the members of the Houston Police Department and the Houston Fire Department. Be sure to come to the game to see the heroes go up against one another during the second intermission on the ice for a tug o’ war contest!