Hundreds honor fallen firefighter Lt. Leach


Hundreds of firefighters attended Lt. Christopher Leach's funeral Friday. Leach and Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes were killed in a Canby Park house fire Saturday, when the first floor collapsed.

A police motorcade escorted the fire truck carrying Lt. Christopher Leach's casket to St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church.

Bagpipers and drummers played as pall bearers carried the casket from the fire truck into the church. One of those pall bearers was Tim Taggart.

"I knew Chris very well," said Taggart. "He was one of the best firefighters I've ever worked with. I've known him since high school in Salesianum and we've been very good friends ever since."

Both Leach and Taggart became firefighters. Taggart is the vice president of Local 1590 Wilmington Firefighters.

Hundreds of firefighters stood at attention in front of the church as Leach's casket arrived.

"In the fire service having this respect for any fallen brother or sister is a touching tribute, but for us to have that here and for all these people to rally around for Chris and Jerry," said Taggart. "It's absolutely one of the most moving things I've ever experienced in my life."

Watching his friend's funeral reminds Taggart of another funeral.

"I think of the last time I was at a funeral and I was with Chris," said Taggart. "When we were done we hugged the brothers and sisters from there, and we go on our way, and we do our jobs. Get back on the fire trucks, and that's the medicine. Get back on the fire truck and do your job."

Taggart says Leach had a love for life. They nicknamed him "Danger."

"He was 'Danger,' and Danger is not the danger that you would think in a scary sort of way. He was just a prankster," said Taggart. "He was always dangerous, you always had to keep your eye on him. Never turn your back on Chris because he's going to get you."

Leach loved his family.

"His kids meant the world to him. Him with his feet in the sand, with his kids around him was the best thing in the world," said Taggart.

The line to get into the cathedral for Leach's funeral mass stretched down the church driveway. Seats filled up before many could get inside.

Some firefighters traveled from across the country.

"Thank you. I say thank you for Chris and his family, for Jerry and his family. It means the world to them."

Honoring a great firefighter who risked his life to help others.

"Chris Leach was a Salesian. He was a good man and a great father," said Taggart.

A joint memorial service honoring Leach and Fickes will be held at 1pm Saturday October 1, at the Chase Center on the Riverfront. It is open to all firefighters, first responders, friends, and the public. Doors open at 12pm. Expect heavy traffic in the area Saturday.