SPENCER, W.Va. — Hundreds of fire fighters across West Virginia and across the nation are expected to attend this weekend’s funeral of late Roane County fire fighter Mark Horwich. Horwich died in a fire truck wreck on the way to fight a fire in the Newton community last Saturday night.
Melissa Gilbert is the Roane County Emergency Manager and said his death has struck a deep blow in her tight knit community.
“Mark was a fireman for two of our local fire departments so he had a lot of extended family because of that. Anytime a fireman is injured or dies in the line of duty, it touches every fireman across the state no matter which department you are with,” she said.
According to Gilbert, Horwich is the first fire fighter to ever be killed in the line of duty in Roane County history. He was a member of both the Clover and Spencer-Road Volunteer Fire Departments. .
“It’s never happened. I’ve been here 21 years and I don’t recall us ever losing a fireman in the line of duty. We’ve had some injuries, but nothing major. We’ve never had a line-of-duty death for a fireman,” she said.
Horwich has moved to West Virginia from Nebraska only two years ago, but he will be buried in the Mountain State. Interment is set for the Ferrell Cemetery near Loonyville, W.Va. Typically in a firefighter’s funeral, a fire truck from the deceased’s home department serves as a hearse to carry the body to its final resting place. Gilbert was unsure if that was planned for Horwich, but added it would be up to his family.
Gilbert said Horwich’s death reminds everybody of the sacrifice put forward by first responders, particularly those who are members of a volunteer department.
“That’s something the general public doesn’t see. These guys are volunteer, they leave their home, jump in a truck and go to the emergency. Your emergency becomes their emergency and they’re trying their hardest to get to you and help you and they’re putting themselves in danger,” Gilbert said.
‘Anytime they jump in that truck, you just never know what’s going to happen,” she added.
It’s the second time in less than a year the school will be converted into a funeral parlor. The high school was also the setting for the funeral of Roane County High School football player Alex Miller who collapsed and died on the sideline during a game between Roane County and Clay County in the early part of the 2019 football season.