Fort Drum firefighter spends off-duty hours serving family of fallen 'brother'
November 21, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- A Fort Drum fire officer devoted to the tight-knit brotherhood of the fire service community will be named Fort Drum Hero of the Month this December for his efforts in supporting the family and memory of a fellow firefighter killed in the line of duty.
Kip Bachar, Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Company lead firefighter at Fire Station 3, has spent more than 200 hours of off-duty time helping the family of Garrett W. Loomis, a Fort Drum firefighter who lost his life while battling a silo fire at a dairy farm in Hounsfield on April 11, 2010.
"Kip has committed himself to go above and beyond all expectations to support the Loomis family with their loss," said Capt. Robert Tennies, Bachar's supervisor at Fort Drum's Fire and Emergency Services Division and the nominating official. "He is my right-hand man here at Fire Station 3 -- a true leader of men."
Loomis, who was promoted to assistant fire chief of Sackets Harbor Volunteer Fire Department less than two weeks before his death, was the first to respond to the early morning emergency two and a half years ago.
He had climbed a 30-foot silo and was on his way back down when the structure exploded. He was 26.
"In the fire service, this is absolutely as bad as it gets," Jason Brunet, Fort Drum assistant fire chief, said at the time of Loomis' death. "Losing a brother firefighter impacts everyone in the fire service."
After his death, the fallen firefighter's parents, Gary and Amy Loomis of Sackets Harbor, set up the Garrett W. Loomis Firefighters Fund to keep their son's memory alive by promoting education and training about safely responding to emergencies in agricultural settings.
The fund provides free educational seminars in the local community and awards a high school senior at Sackets Harbor Central School with a $1,500 scholarship each year to reward their civic involvement in the community.
"After the funeral, the family really wanted to honor Garrett," Bachar said. "They didn't want his name to be forgotten -- they didn't want the tragedy to be just another statistic."
Bachar said Gary Loomis, a former Fort Drum assistant fire chief and at one time his supervisor, asked him to be on the Garrett W. Loomis Firefighters Fund's committee as a representative of Fort Drum firefighters.
"I always had a great working relationship with Gary," Bachar said. "He was one of the greatest people I ever worked for."
Over the last year, Bachar also became involved in the Garrett W. Loomis Memorial Golf Tourney and the annual Run 4 Garrett event, two fundraisers that recently raised $15,000 for the scholarship and educational fund.
But Bachar said his efforts with planning meetings, traveling to events and administering the scholarship program have never "felt like work."
"It's something I want to do," said Bachar, adding that his wife Christina's strong support makes everything easier. "We are all doing it for the same reason. No one has a hidden agenda. We want to support the family and keep Garrett's name alive in the community."
Bachar said he remembers Loomis as a hard worker with a lot of personality.
"He was very outgoing and easy to get along with," he said. "He was a fun person to be around. He really enjoyed his job and was really big on helping out in the community."
Bachar was spending time with his father down in Delaware in April 2010. He said his father's birthday was the day after Loomis' birthday.
When Bachar got the call, he knew Loomis had died just days shy of his 27th birthday.
"A friend of mine called my wife to let her know, because he couldn't (compose himself) to call me and tell me," he said. "We grabbed our stuff and went right to Gary and Amy's house."
Bachar said public support poured in from all corners of the lakeside community, particularly from Sackets Harbor Central School, where a memorial service was held in Loomis' honor several days after the incident.
"Sackets is a great community," Bachar said "The people are very giving, very understanding, very supportive."
'A shoulder to lean on'
Lending support to people like the Loomis family runs in Bachar's blood.
After more than 25 years in the fire service, the North Country native not only continues climbing the ladder as a Fort Drum firefighter, but he is still a volunteer member of the Adams Fire Department, where he once served as fire chief.
Last year, Bachar was named a Fort Drum Hero of the Month for offering his personal time at the home of a local firefighter whose son was suffering with leukemia.
"Lt. Bachar is the type of man who, if you call (him) and needed a hand, a ride or a shoulder to lean on, he would be there," Tennies said. "He is an outstanding member of his community."
Bachar also thinks nothing of travelling outside of the area to be a shoulder of support to others.
Last October, he witnessed Garrett's name being added to the wall at the New York State Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Albany. Just a few weeks later, he travelled to Emmitsburg, Md., where a bronze plaque with Garrett Loomis' name was placed at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial on the campus of the National Fire Academy.
In Maryland, Bachar and a handful of other Fort Drum "brother" firefighters provided the Loomis family with a color guard and joined a "Sea of Blue" dedication in which attending firefighters, dressed in Class A uniforms, stood shoulder to shoulder down the walkway as each of the fallen was honored.
The day before the dedication, the Loomis family had invited him and a few others to sit with them inside a campus chapel.
"It was a very, very hard moment, but a very touching one," Bachar recalled. "We went to the front and placed flowers on the mantle, which was placed at the monument during the service to light a luminary candle. There wasn't a dry eye in the place."
Recalling their support during his family's tough time, Gary Loomis called Bachar and his wife "our anchor at the memorial."
Loomis also expressed his appreciation for the support of Fort Drum's Fire and Emergency Services Division.
"It hit the guys at Fort Drum (especially) hard," he recalled. "They always say, 'Once a firefighter, you are brothers for life!' And that was true.
"Kip (is) a very caring individual," he added.
Since 2010, Bachar has picked up many vignettes from people throughout the community who knew Loomis -- the young man he took under his wing when he arrived at Fort Drum in 2009.
"People share their stories of Garrett," Bachar said. "There are parts of his life I know more about now that he is not with us than I did before."
Loomis worked out of Fort Drum's old Fire Station 2 on Nash Boulevard. The spacious, new Garrett W. Loomis Fire Station 2 on Ontario Drive was dedicated in his honor when it was unveiled in July 2011.
In addition to his parents, Loomis is survived by two brothers, Benjamin and Bryan -- both of them firefighters.