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County to honor fallen firefighters with roadway sign

The two signs will be located on Old Columbia Pike and Old Frederick Road, and are expected to be erected later this month.
The two signs will be located on Old Columbia Pike and Old Frederick Road, and are expected to be erected later this month. (Courtesy Howard County Fire Department)

Two county roads will now honor five Howard County firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty.

One of the signs honors Capt. Charles Ditch and Lt. Joseph Stigler, of the Ellicott City Volunteer Fire Department, who died in a house fire on Dec. 25, 1953. A second sign honors Robert Wade Clary, Raymond Mills and William Brightwell, who died following a crash of their fire engine on July 20, 1969.

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The sign honoring Ditch and Stigler will be located in the 4000 block of Old Columbia Pike, and the sign honoring Clary, Mills and Brightwell will be located on Old Frederick Road near the intersection of Forsythe Road. Both signs are expected to be erected later this month by the Department of Public Works, which also made the signs.

The project, which first began in December 2016, was championed by County Executive Allan Kittleman and Fire Chief John Butler. County fire and rescue retirees as well as members of the Volunteer Firemen's Association were also involved, according to the Howard County Fire Department.

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Family members for those honored weren't involved in the planning of the signs so that the final products could be a surprise, according to a spokesman for the fire department.

Kittleman and Butler unveiled the signs at the second annual Honor and Remembrance Ceremony for Fire and EMS Services on Sunday honoring county residents who have died in the line of duty. The ceremony also honored Donald Kopp, a Baltimore City firefighter and Howard County resident who died in 1979; and Erik Steciak, a West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department paramedic who died in a crash while working as a paid EMS provider for the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Department in 2015.

"These brave men made the ultimate sacrifice in the service to the people of Howard County," Kittleman said in a statement. "We must never forget their selfless acts which is why we are unveiling these road signs. This recognition is long overdue."

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