Firefighters say goodbye to one of their own

7:21 PM, May 29, 2011   |    comments
  • Photo Courtesy: Star Tribune
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CAMBRIDGE, Minn. -- A funeral was held Saturday for a Minnesota firefighter who was fatally injured during a training accident earlier in the week.

Volunteer firefighter, 35-year-old Chip Imker, died Wednesday after falling six to eight feet onto concrete during a rope rescue exercise Monday with the Cambridge Fire Department.

Bob Carlson, Rush City Fire Chief said, "We've lost one of our own and it affects everybody in our fire community."

It hurts when you lose one of your family.  There were many families missing Imker on Saturday.

Carlson said, "Our sympathies for the whole fire department, Chip and his family as well.  We're behind you 100%."

From as far as Sandstone, Tower and more, Imker's family of firefighters from more than 80 communities came to his funeral at Cambridge Isanti High School, his alma mater.

Cameras were kept at a distance from the funeral out of respect for his immediate family, which includes two sons, ages 6 and 8, their mother and Imker's significant other, Kristin Hill, his parents and his two brothers.

After the funeral, bagpipers played and then his casket was placed on an antique fire truck for a procession to the Christ the King Cemetery.

Linda Droubie, one of Imker's friends, said, "I felt terrible for Kristin, his partner and his two kids.  Just knowing those two kids are going to grow up with out a dad, it's hard."

Droubie belonged to Imker's wrestling family.  Her kids wrestled with his sons and Imker also coached.  Droubie said, "He was really funny.  He liked to goof around with the kids at practice and [he was] kind of one of those that took care of all the kids and coached all the kids, not just his own."

Droubie went to Imker's wake Friday night and was one of many people from the community who came out to pay respects along Main Street and watch as more than 100 emergency vehicles led a procession to the cemetery.

Jenny Schlenker was one of those watching the tribute.  She did not know Imker but lives in Cambridge and said, "It's proven to me how people can pull together and grieve and respect each other.  Just to sit here and watch all the different communities come together on this particular weekend, it's pretty surreal."

The community of Cambridge did not want to say goodbye to one of their own on Memorial Day weekend, but they did so, with honor, because Chip Imker is part of their family too.

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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