Alton Glento Warren, a Baltimore firefighter for 31 years, was buried yesterday with the fallen heroes at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens -- his career and life cut short by complications from an injury his co-workers thought to be routine.
Firefighter Warren, 55, tripped and broke an ankle two months ago. The injury was linked to a blood clot that formed and moved to his heart and lungs a few days after doctors removed a cast. The clot caused a heart attack, and he died July 19 at Sinai Hospital.
"It was just one of those freak things," said Capt. John K. Brinkman, who was Firefighter Warren's supervisor at Engine Company 43, at the intersection of Chinquapin Parkway and Walters Avenue in Northeast Baltimore.
The flag-draped casket was placed on Engine 43 and driven in a procession with police escorts from the March Funeral Home on Wabash Avenue, north on Interstate 83 to the cemetery on Padonia Road.
The vehicles passed under the extended ladders of two fire trucks near the entrance to the cemetery, where Firefighter Warren was buried at the Fallen Heroes Memorial alongside other public safety officers who died in the line of duty. The cemetery donates the spaces.
About 100 city and Baltimore County firefighters and another 100 family members and friends mourned Firefighter Warren, who worked nearly all of his adult life for the department and -- until his injury -- never missed work.
Firefighter Warren was injured May 30 at an apartment complex in the 1000 block of Woodson Road, where someone had set a fire in a basement storage room.
Captain Brinkman and another firefighter went in first with a hose line, and Firefighter Warren followed with an ax. He apparently tripped over the hose while walking down stairs and broke his ankle.
He was treated at Mercy Medical Center and released. A little more than a week ago, the cast was removed. Firefighter Warren suffered an apparent heart attack soon after returning to his home on Cylburn Avenue, and was rushed to Sinai.
Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres, a Fire Department spokesman, said the cause of death is listed as cardiac pulmonary embolism. It was classified as a line-of-duty death because the original injury occurred during a fire.
"He was the best acting lieutenant I ever had," said Captain Brinkman, a speaker at the funeral, explaining that Mr. Warren was assigned supervisory responsibilities because he was the senior firefighter at his station, where 29 people worked.
Firefighter Warren was born July 5, 1939, in Red Springs, N.C. His family moved to Baltimore a short time later, and he attended public schools -- graduating from Douglass High School in 1958.
That year, he also was married to the former Lenora Myles and joined the Air Force for a four-year tour of duty. He joined the Fire Department in 1962.
Firefighter Warren was a member of the Ray of Hope Baptist Church, which he helped to move in 1978 to its current site at Harford Road and Parkside Drive.
Monday night at the church -- decorated with wreaths and a cardboard cut-out of Engine 43, hundreds of mourners gathered for a memorial service led by the Rev. Charles M. Franklin Sr., who spoke of Mr. Warren's dedication to his work and to his family.
"He introduced me to firefighting," recalled Firefighter David Campbell -- who was a child when he first met Firefighter Warren. "I thought it was the greatest job in the world. He was a firefighter almost as long as I've been alive and that's all I remember him as."
Friends and family members described Mr. Warren as a man who loved to fish, loved his family -- his two married daughters live only six blocks away from the Warren home -- and as an avid card player who rarely lost.
"He used to win his hands, mine and everyone else's," said Maxine Robinson, who had known Mr. Warren for 15 years and played pinochle with him. "We played for bragging rights, and he usually won them."
Describing him as a well-rounded individual who attended classes at the University of Maryland while in the military, nephew Willie Giggers said Firefighter Warren could have excelled at many vocations.
"He was smart enough to do all sorts of things," he said. "But [firefighting] is what he stayed with and he was pretty dedicated."
Mr. Warren is survived by his wife; his daughters, Angela McCullum and Pamela Love; his mother, Margaret Cottman; a brother, Glenwood Warren; and three grandchildren. All are of Baltimore.