Fire marshal honors 11 men and women for responding to house fire in Riddle that killed 6

(SBG image)

RIDDLE, Ore. - Eleven firefighters in Riddle were honored on Monday by the Oregon State Fire Marshal.

"Six people died - five of them being children. Even in large departments won't have to face that in their career," said Deputy State Fire Marshal Mike Shaw. "What you guys did was very commendable and you guys should be really be proud of what you did that evening."

The crew was recognized for responding to a house fire that killed the entire Howell family -- except for the father.

"Totally didn't expect it," said engineer Louis Maffei of the recognition. "But I didn't do this to feel good, I do this because I feel it's time for me to give back to the community."

It happened on March 1. The fire was ruled accidental, ignited by a space heater.

Since then, those firefighters who responded to what they say was the worst night of their careers have shown each other support

"It's definitely the most horrendous call I've ever been on," said firefighter Michael Urban. "Other calls didn't hit me as hard as this one did. Just the fact that children and other things were involved."

Jimmy Howell, the father, was the lone survivor.

His wife, Tabitha, and five children died.

That fire was some of these first responders' first call to action.

"Also, I was young still - this is something I want to do as my career," said firefighter Zachary Geisler. "I want to be a paramedic when I grow up ... and to see that right away was like a movie."

During the ceremony, the firefighters were not only supported by the State Marshal, but they were given support from their community.

"It -- it hits pretty hard from the heart and everything to know the community is showing all its support and everything; showing love towards us," said Urban.

"Doing our job is what we're here for, but doing it for the community most importantly," said Geisler. "It felt good that we did everything we could do that night."

"I couldn't ask for a greater group of people that early morning," said Fire Chief Rich Holloway. "To have them perform the way that they did. It makes me very proud to see that the training and everything we go through paid off."

Chief Holloway says it will take time for these men and women to heal after responding to the fire that early morning, but being recognized for their dedication helps them feel supported along the way.

Community support for the Howell family continues. A benefit concert will be held at the Douglas County Fairgrounds on August 12 at 1 p.m.

Tickets are $18, plus fair admission and applicable fees.

You can find more information at the Douglas County Fairgrounds website.

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