ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – For the first time in 45 years, the Fort Wayne Fire Department is saying goodbye to one of their own who died in the line of duty. Firefighters said their job now is to support Captain Eric Balliet’s family.
That’s exactly what they, along with family, friends, other first responders and a grateful community, did at Pathway Community Church Tuesday.
“Firefighters and family are inside mourning the loss of one of our own,” President of the Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters Jeremy Bush said.
For seven hours hundreds of people went into the Allen County church for Balliet’s viewing. The viewing starts the official process of saying goodbye.
“[The mood] is very somber,” Indiana Oath Keeper and attendee Mark Cowan said. “Eric was a good guy.”
The sadness and tears are inevitable. But there were moments when spirits were high.
“The stories are good,” FWFD Captain Andrew Pfeiffer said. “Some of the stories aren’t for camera, but they’re uplifting, and at times you need those uplifting stories.”
Cowan is a member of the Indiana Oath Keepers. They honor those who lost their lives in the line of duty, and he placed dozens of flags at the viewing.
“We need to honor those who run in where angels fear to tread,” Cowan said.
One of the flags seen outside the viewing is a black flag with red and blue lines. It’s called a hero flag, and it symbolizes all those we lost in public services– police and fire. It’s a flag that truly symbolizes Captain Balliet.
“He was a captain with the fire department, a captain with the Sheriff’s office reserve, he was a coroner. He was a good man,” Cowan said.
Even after the official goodbyes, the fire department’s dedication to Balliet’s life doesn’t stop.
“Our job now is that we are being strong and united for the family,” Bush said.
Balliet’s funeral will be Wednesday at First Assembly of God on West Washington Center Road. For more information click here.