Fallen Firefighter Remembered in Solemn Ceremony
HERNANDO – It’s this time of the year that we reminisce of good and bad times, our accomplishments and failures, and loved ones we’ve lost. For first responders, painful memories of fallen brothers and sisters resurface and honoring their legacies through ceremonies and dedications ensures that they will never be forgotten.
25 years ago, Firefighter James “Jim” Winters lost his life during a smoke diving exercise in Ocala. Doctors said Winters died of a massive heart attack, even though he was extremely fit and had no known medical conditions.
Winters was attached to Spring Hill Fire Rescue Station One but officials later dedicated Station Four in his honor. On Sunday, the anniversary of his death, Hernando County Fire Rescue held a ceremony recognizing the 25th anniversary of his passing. Winters’ sister-n-law Linda Winters and Fiancé Marie Challis attended the emotional gathering, where they displayed photos and other memorabilia for attendees to view. Marie says “Jim had the biggest heart and would drop anything to be there for you.” Linda said Jim loved the outdoors and would go hunting and fishing as often as he could.
A framed copy of the Fireman’s Prayer propped up near photos of Winters reads:
When I am called to duty, God
Wherever flames may rage,
Give me strength to save some life
Whatever be its age.
Help me embrace a little child
Before it is too late
Or save an older person from
The horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert and hear the weakest shout
And quickly and efficiently
To put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling and
To give best of me,
To guard my every neighbor and
Protect his property.
And if according to my fate
I am to lose my life,
Please bless with your protecting hand
My children and my wife.
The lowering of our nations flag to half-staff and a Chaplain’s benediction brought tears to those who knew and loved Jim.
James “Jim” Winters leaves behind a two sons, Jimmy and Jeffrey Winters.
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