City to pay tribute to lost firefighters
Those who lost their lives in explosion 35 years ago to be honored
KINGMAN - It has been nearly 35 years since the Kingman Fire Department lost a third of their force from the Doxol explosion, and now they will remember the firefighters' sacrifice with a ceremony on Saturday.
With hundreds expected, the ceremony begins at 10 a.m. at Kingman Middle School, 1969 Detroit Ave., before moving to the adjacent Firefighters Memorial Park, 2201 Detroit Ave.
The ceremony will include flag posting by the Honor Guard, speeches by fire officials, a video presentation, bell ceremony and an Arizona Department of Public Safety flyover.
From those involved with the explosion to those who lost a loved one, many have expressed their support of the observance.
"I'm glad to see the guys doing this, getting the memorial going," Wayne Davis, 56, said. "It is something that Kingman as a community can't forget.
Davis, a volunteer firefighter with KFD at the time, was injured in the Doxol Propane explosion that claimed the lives of 11 firefighters and one civilian on July 5, 1973.
"Those guys gave the ultimate to protect their community," Davis said. "I'm glad to see them do it."
While Davis was at the scene, he wasn't the only one to witness the explosion that reverberated through the community. Bob Casson, who lost his father William L. Casson, saw the fire from a neighbor's front yard with his brother and mother.
"We've lived through it," Bob Casson said. "I don't particularly look forward to living through it again, but our kids don't really know. In some ways our wives or husbands don't really know."
Bob Casson, who currently works as a captain with the KFD, said he felt his children never really knew what questions to ask him. One of his two daughters will be in attendance.
"I'm expecting kind of a flood of questions," Bob Casson said. "And they're going to be questions that I've never been asked before, and I'll be able to explain them."
Making sure the children understand their grandfathers, their importance to the community and the sacrifice they made is a sentiment shared by Porter Williams, whose father Richard Lee Williams also died fighting the propane tank fire.
"It's going to be a tough day but I want my kids there to get a tiny grasp of the magnitude of what happened," said Williams, a battalion chief with the KFD. "I've driven them around and showed them this is where the explosion was. This is where your grandpa died.
"I've taken them down to the football field (Lee Williams Field) and shown them this is how great of a man he was," he added. "They're just still kids. They don't know him. They never got a chance to meet him. That's why it's very important to me. They're going to see all this pomp and grandeur. They're going to show that."
Questions don't begin with the grandchildren. Chuck Casson, a part-time KFD firefighter and son of William Casson, said he always had questions himself for those at the scene.
"I always wanted to talk to someone, whether it was Chief (Charlie) Potter or somebody that was actually there," Chuck Casson. "I never sat down with Wayne. I know Wayne Davis was there.
"I know it's difficult for him to have that discussion," he added. "But I always wanted to say, 'OK, what exactly? Where was dad? What happened?' That's the tough part. I would really would like to know more but really don't want to know more."
The knowledge won't end with the victims' families. Bob Casson said he expects his fellow firefighters to learn from the ceremony as well as those in the community.
"There is a lot of old-time Kingman that have the same questions as a lot of what we are anticipating our kids to have," Bob Casson said. "They experienced it, but they may not necessarily know why it happened, how it happened."
Understanding the incident won't be the main focus of the ceremony, rather the KFD will remember the firefighters lost in the explosion.
"Tradition and memories and sense of memorial and respect for our fallen brothers have been very strong in the fire service since its inception," said Cottonwood Fire Chief Mike Casson. "I understand the need for them to do that. I appreciate that."
The memorial will bring in surviving family members, those in the fire and law enforcement services, and civilians from all over the state. Mike Casson will come in from Cottonwood for the remembrance of his father William, while Tucson Fire Battalion Chief Donnie Webb will come to see the tribute to the lost firefighters, including his father Donald Webb.
"I think it's going to be a memorial, a remembrance of Kingman's history," Donnie Webb said. "It's going to bring a lot of memories back to people that are still there with it and people that are coming back for it."
Remembering the firefighters comes at a vital time for the community, being decades later, said John Osterman, a KFD firefighter on July 5, 1973.
"I think it's good, because it's 35 years later," Osterman added. "A lot of people in this community don't realize this happened, and it needs to be remembered."