TRUMANN, AR (KAIT) - Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of Trumann Fire Chief Rick Winkles' death. Winkles died after suffering a heart attack while battling a fire.
The Trumann Fire Department held a ceremony to honor Winkles' legacy. While there were tears, there were also many smiles as the community shared memories of the former chief.
"We dearly miss him," current fire chief, Earnie Link said. "We are going to try and do something every year to honor his, we don't want him to be forgotten."
Link said he learned a lot from the man he worked alongside for so many years. "I know he would be very proud to see everyone here today and recognize his life," Link said during the ceremony.
Others also stood up to say a few words. "He lived and breathed the fire department and wanted it to be the best," Trumann Mayor Barbara Lewallen said.
"I really respected the guy and I considered him my brother," one Bay fire fighter said. "I miss him."
His parents and wife were presented with a proclamation signed by the Governor honoring Winkles' sacrifice.
Link said Winkles died doing what he loved.
"A lot of departments say the chief shouldn't even be in there fighting the fire, but that's the way…like me, if we have a house fire today, I go in and fight it also," Link said. "That's what he was doing that day."
At 12:14 p.m. the alarm sounded and 28 balloons were released to honor Winkles. That was the exact time the department received the call about the fire last year.
"Thinking back and looking at it, he probably wouldn't have changed anything about it," Link said.
Winkles will be remembered for his service, but many will remember him as much more.
"He wasn't just a fire chief or a fire fighter," Link said. "He was a citizen of Trumann. He coached t-ball and baseball with his boys growing up. He's going to be missed."
Winkles has a memorial at Trumann's Hero Park. The park honors those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The city plans to dedicate the park in March.