As the city of Marshfield works to cope with the death of a firefighter, a state organization has stepped in to offer assistance to the department and family of Lt. Matthew Blankenship. KSMU’s Scott Harvey has more.
When a line of duty death occurs, the agency sustaining the loss has the option to request support from the Missouri Fire Service Funeral Assistance Team, which has five response teams statewide.
Bryan Zinanni is the organization’s state coordinator.
“When an agency reaches out to us, many times it’s a very confusing time – there’s a lot of things that need to happen. So they reach out to us. We have experience in facilitating firefighter funerals, as well as processing state and federal benefits that are available for the families,” Zinanni says.
Lt. Blankenship died Saturday at Mercy Hospital Burn Center in Springfield, where he had been receiving treatment since being critically injured while battling a house fire in Niangua July 13. According to the Marshfield Fire Department, Blankenship; a four year veteran with the department, was trapped inside the structure when “conditions rapidly deteriorated.” Another firefighter escaped with minor injuries while a third was treated and released a day later.
Members of the Missouri Fire Service Funeral Assistance Team recently returned from Prescott, Arizona, where they offered assistance following a massive wild fire that claimed the lives of 19 firefighters on June 30.
Zinanni says he’s always amazed by the effort of community members to rally around their fallen public safety officers.
“Your smaller communities really gather strongly and rally around that department and help them however they can. And it’s a true testament of community service, which is what our fire service is.”
Since Lt. Blankenship was hospitalized, a fund to assist his family has generated over 100 contributions totaling more than $13,000 as of Monday afternoon.
Debora Taylor launched the campaign through the crowdfunding platform FundRazr. Taylor, who serves as EMT-IC firefighter auxiliary president and treasurer of the Marshfield Firefighters Association, said in an email to KSMU that Blankenship and his family “have given all. It’s time we as a community give back.”
Donations are being accepted through the end of August.
No formal visitation will be held for Blankenship. Funeral services are schedule for 11 a.m. Thursday at the Marshfield High School Gymnasium.
A poker run and silent auction also to benefit the family of Lt. Blankenship will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at Marshfield Fire Station 3.