CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) — After a week of mourning the loss of a young firefighter, Richard Sheltra’s family and friends will celebrate his life and service to the community.Sheltra, 20, lost his life responding to a fire in Pineville last Saturday night.
The public memorial service is being held at Forest Hills Church’s South Park Campus on Park Road in Charlotte at noon then a procession will take Sheltra to his final resting place.
Pineville VFD apparatus will be involved in moving Sheltra to and from McEwen Funeral Home. If you are in the area, expect to see emergency services agencies stopped along the processional route.
Following the memorial service Sheltra’s body will make an eight mile journey from Forest Hill Church to the funeral home by way of the Pineville Volunteer Fire Department Station.
Suthard, the Public Information Officer for Huntersville Fire who is assisting Pineville Fire, said they’d like to see people line the route for the procession before and after the service.
“We’d love to see residents and of course we’ll have firefighters along the route as we pass. We’d love to see it” Suthard said.
The fire that claimed the life of the 20-year-old started just after 9 p.m. at Countryside shopping center, located at 8500 Pineville-Matthews Road. The Edwin Watts golf store, which had closed at 6 p.m. Saturday, was ablaze.
Firefighters who were working to put out a fire at a Pineville golf store Saturday night at one point reported that Richard Sheltra was lost in the building but was on his way out, The CHarlotte Observer said, citing an audio tape of communications at the scene.
The tape, which has several unintelligible exchanges between firefighters appears to capture the following: “Sheltra did not make it out of the building yet. He’s coming now. He got lost,” one audio transmission from the scene said. “Make sure he gets out of the building.”
About 5 minutes later comes the following exchange: “Unknown what’s wrong with him, we’re dragging him out now.” Another voice says: “ OK. 10-4. You have the downed firefighter, is that correct?”
“Yes sir. That’s correct.”
Sheltra, a 20-year-old with the Pineville Volunteer Fire Department for the past three years, ultimately was found “in distress” before he was brought out of the building, according to a report from the Department. He was taken to Carolinas Medical Center but did not survive. The nature of his injuries has not been disclosed.
Sheltra’s death appears to be the first loss of a firefighter to a fire in Mecklenburg County since 2002. That’s when Josh Earley, a 23-year-old from Midland, died of injuries sustained while fighting a house fire in eastern Mecklenburg with the Harrisburg Volunteer Fire Department. He was serving with that department on an off day from his full-time job at Station 27 with the Charlotte Fire Department.
Firefighting in his blood
Sheltra, a Charlotte native, is described as having “a kind soul with a quiet demeanor and servant’s heart” and was living out his dream of being a firefighter. Those
“When he was yay tall, I knew then this kid wanted to be a fireman,” said Jim Dedmon, who started his firefighting career as a volunteer with Carmel Fire Department.
Sheltra’s father was the Chief of Carmel Volunteer Fire Department. Dedmon remembers that young Richard wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“Just his attitude, just his excitement and the spark in his eye that he saw when he saw a fire truck and he saw us getting our gear, getting on a truck to go on a call. You knew this kid had it in his blood already.”
Pineville Fire officials said Sheltra had been volunteering with the fire department for three years, and earlier this year he was named Rookie of the Year.
As Sheltra put in his firefighter training hours, Hendrick Honda told WBTV that he was also working part-time for them.
Dedmon, who went on to spend 26 years with the Charlotte Fire Department and retired as a Captain, said he was in “disbelief, and saddened.”
“It’s awful in the fact I see it as a community that will not see a 20-year-old come to fruition as a young man and older man serving his community,” Dedmon said. “This was an opportunity for a young man at a time when we praise athletes, musicians, whoever it is… this was a kid who came up grassroots and had so much potential and was a true hero.”
Friday, the 20-year-old’s flag-draped coffin was moved to a Pineville funeral home where it spent the night, but there was a watchful eye over the hero all night.
“Tonight somebody will be with him all night until tomorrow,” said Bill Suthard, a spokesperson for the Pineville Volunteer Fire Department. “We have somebody standing with him. Honor Guard standing with him.”
“Basically what we did was we brought our brother home back to Pineville,” Suthard said. “And we wanted to make sure we had him close to us, that he is back here.”
Pineville officials said Governor Pat McCrory sent a state flag that flew over the State Capitol, a personal letter and a proclamation.
“It’s not so much the sacrifice,” said Pineville Mayor Jack Edwards. “It’s the willingness to sacrifice that these guys do every single day for us.”
In lieu of flowers
Strangers first showed up at the fire station on Sunday to pay their respects and leave notes and flowers on a fire truck. All throughout the week, people kept coming by the fire house to pay their respects to their fallen brother.
“Just when you think you’ve lost hope in humanity, everyone shows up from North Carolina, South Carolina – our community pulling together,” said Jennifer Honaker, who stopped to look at the memorial. Her husband is a Pineville firefighter.
“It’s hard when you hear of things that happen on the news all the time but until it hits you in your house, in your backyard – it’s hard to think that Richard is not going home to his family,” Honaker continued. “It could just as easily be my family that was affected by it.”
The Richard Sheltra Memorial Fund was created this past week.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for any donations to be mailed to the Charlotte Fire Department Credit Union, 2100 Commonwealth Avenue, Charlotte, NC 28205.These contributions will go towards a cause close to Richard’s heart. Funds will be used for firefighter turnout gear and educational resources.
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