KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. — The residents of Pratt and emergency service personnel from across West Virginia honored on Tuesday the two volunteer firefighters who died in a wreck over the weekend.
More than 50 people stood outside of the Pratt Volunteer Fire Department building for a wreath-laying ceremony to honor Assistant Chief Mike Edwards, 46, and Lt. Tom Craigo, 40, both of Hansford. Edwards and Craigo died in a crash Saturday on Paint Creek Road.
Pratt Volunteer Fire Department Deputy Chief Rod Johnson said local firefighters work together on a regular basis but also support each other after the firetrucks have returned to their stations.
“This is a brotherhood,” he said.
Montgomery Volunteer Fire Department Deputy Chief Benny Filiaggi said the bond between firefighters is “second to none.”
“We just do what we have to do,” he said. “We’ve always done that, but right now, it’s more important.”
Firefighters from multiple fire departments from as far as Point Pleasant stood at attention as Sylvester Police Chief John Gross placed a black wreath in front of the department building. Afterward, a man presented the department with a metal piece honoring Edwards and Craigo.
“In Honor Of Our Fallen Heros,” read the sign, a plate in the shape of an American flag. The man later presented two similar signs to the Edwards and Craigo families.
Pratt resident John Beaver began designing the pieces on Sunday. He had finished the powder coating minutes before the ceremony began.
“I didn’t know this was going on. I had them in the truck with me,” he said. “I pulled them out of the powder coating at 6:30. It just all worked out.”
Beaver’s son is a firefighter with the Pratt fire department. When Saturday’s wreck was first reported, Beaver feared his son was in the truck.
“They were mentors,” he said of Edwards and Craigo. “They taught those guys here to be in a brotherhood and come together.”
Johnson said he is grateful for the support the fire department has received and hopes it continues in the upcoming weeks.
“It’s going to take a long time for everyone to heal up. Everyone says time will heal, but until you’re in this situation, you’re not thinking about it,” he said.
Johnson said earlier Tuesday two firefighters injured in the crash — Fire Chief Timmy Walker, 42, of Hansford, and Firefighter Billy Hypes, 56, of Gallagher — remain in the intensive care unit at Charleston Area Medical Center General Hospital in Charleston. Walker is listed in critical condition and Hypes is in stable condition.
The West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office announced the funeral services for Craigo will be held April 3 at Riverside High School beginning at 2 p.m. Visitation will be held April 2 between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the school.