Thousands of mourners from across the state of Maryland and the nation arrived at Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in North Baltimore (MD) on Monday January 24th to honor fallen firefighter Mark Falkenhan.
The call for the fire at 30 Dowling Circle came in to fire dispatchers at 6:18 p.m. The call came in as a kitchen fire; however, fire investigators have not determined that the fire originated in the kitchen. The fire remains under investigation. Fire Chief John Hohman has asked the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for assistance. Engine 11 was the first-arriving engine. The fire quickly escalated to a second-alarm, and eventually four alarms worth of equipment were dispatched. About 30 pieces of fire equipment and 100 fire personnel responded.
Mark Falkenhan arrived with the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Co. and entered the building with his partner, Dennis Fulton. At some point, Falkenhan called a mayday, indicating he was in distress. He was on the third floor, searching for fire victims. His partner was able to escape through a window on the third floor. FF Fulton escaped by diving off the balcony and sliding face-first down a ladder. Firefighters found Falkenhan on the third floor and moved him to the balcony, where crews delivered him to paramedics. Medic personnel administered advanced life support measures and transported him to St. Joseph Medical Center.
They were on the third floor when it’s believed they were suddenly overwhelmed by a possible flashover. Firefighter Falkenhan did not make it out.
He signaled a “Mayday” distress call at 6:47 p.m., and rescue workers rushed to return to the third floor. They pulled Falkenhan out of the building and down the ladder, then performed advanced life-support measures. He was transported to St. Joseph Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
More than 200 fire trucks and an estimated 3,000 mourners—including Gov. Martin O’Malley and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz—crowded the North Baltimore church to bid farewell to the 43-year-old Lutherville volunteer firefighter from Middle River who died Wednesday January 19th from injuries sustained while fighting a four-alarm apartment fire in Hillendale.
Mark Gray Falkenhan was born Dec. 26, 1967, in Middle River. Shortly after he graduated from Mount Carmel High School in 1986, Falkenhan joined the Middle River Volunteer Ambulance & Rescue Co. He rose to the rank of chief and became a lifetime member.
Falkenhan then joined the Baltimore County Fire Department as an emergency medical technician in 1990.
He married Gladys on Nov. 11, 1993, and became an EMT-Paramedic the following year. He was an instructor at the Fire Rescue Academy and served at various stations across the county—Woodlawn, Dundalk, Golden Ring, Essex, Eastview and Fullerton—before retiring in 2006 to accept a job with the U.S. Secret Service.
“He loved his family first, but his life was the fire department,” his wife stated. Fire Chief Hohman could barely hold back the tears last week at Falkenhan’s house as he reflected on Falkenhan’s life and his devotion to public service. He first met Falkenhan more than two decades ago, when Hohman was the union president and he spent time speaking with those fresh out of the fire academy.
“He was so dedicated to what he did, and I could tell he loved what he did,” Hohman said. “You won’t be able to find a picture or photo out there of Mark that didn’t show that broad smile that went across his face. He enjoyed everything about his life.”
In addition to his affiliation with Lutherville VFC, Firefighter Falkenhan, was a member of Baltimore County’s career fire department for 16 years, from 1990 to 2006. He was a paramedic/firefighter whose assignments included the Fire-Rescue Academy, where he was an instructor. He served at many stations, including Woodlawn, Dundalk, Golden Ring, Essex, Eastview and Fullerton. Falkenhan resigned in 2006 and was most recently employed with the U.S. Secret Service. In addition to his membership at Lutherville, he was a life member and past chief of the Middle River (MD)Volunteer Ambulance Rescue Co.
The Baltimore Sun newspaper published an editorial about the death of Firefighter Falkenhan that is required reading; HERE . An excerpt from the editorial reads as follows:
The word “hero” gets used too often to describe the most pedestrian of admirable behaviors, from the star quarterback who marches his team for a winning score to the kid who finds a missing wallet and turns it in. But exceptional bravery, special ability, exceptional deeds and noble qualities — those are what define an authentic hero, and Mr. Falkenhan lacked for none of them.
It was not by accidental circumstance or naiveté that he ended up on the third story of that Hillendale apartment complex in the midst of a fire, searching for missing residents. He knew the risks as well as anyone could. But his selfless desire to help others drove him forward into the flames.
That’s what made him exceptional. That’s why his legacy is important. That’s why the community is in his debt.
Think about this man; a brother firefighter, a husband, a father, a mentor….reflect on his life, his sacrifice and the true meaning and definition of being a firefighter….
Reflect on what you do, who you are and what defines you; rise to meet the demands and challenges with the right qualities that have meaning and reflect upon the virtues of this noble profession we call the Fire Service.