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Incident Name:
Date: 01/31/1984
Personnel: Alexander Keith Polakovich
Age: 33
Agency/Organization: Forest Hill Volunteer Fire Department, Forest Hill, Louisiana
Position: fire chief

Summary: On 01/31/1984, the truck of Alexander Keith Polakovich, Chief of the Forest Hill Volunteer Fire Department, was struck by a non-licensed driver while he was responding to a grass fire. Keith did not survive.

Keith and his familiy, last portrait taken in 1984 just before he died. Photo compliments of his widow Peggy:

Keith Polakovich with family Keith Polakovich with family

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Maps

en route from Forest Hill Volunteer Fire Department to Glenmora on a mutual aid call

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • NWCG brief record in Fire Fatalities by year 1910-2011: reports only that in 1984 a Forest Hill Volunteer Firefighter died responding to a grass fire in his private vehicle.
  • United States Social Security Death Index: Keith Polakovich

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Wildlandfire.com Links:

 

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Articles and Reports

  • Memories (January, 2014) of Uncle Keith from his adult neice who was 9 when he died:

    What I remember most was he was devoted to the Forest Hill Fire Department and helping people. That day he and my dad Mike, both volunteers, were responding to a grass fire. Uncle Keith left first and Mike was following. An older woman (who shouldn't have been driving) hit Keith's truck. Both Keith and the woman died. Recently as I've grown older than he was when he died, I've thought, he was only a young 33 and he was gone.

    Uncle Keith was married to Aunt Peggy and they had a loving family, a son Joseph (age 12) and a daughter Dia (age 7). He had three older sisters and brother Mike, and his dad who all loved their "little brother" and son. Keith and his family lived next door. Keith and my dad owned a nursery, started by my grandfather; it's still in our family. Richardsnursery.com "About them" website has a little about the beginning business and still our family business. The generations carry on.

    I remember Uncle Keith was a very nice guy and extremely smart with electronics. Computers were starting to become more and more widespread about the time he died and he was very interested and involved. Today he'd be amazed at the i-phone and so many other technological advances; he'd really liked exploring new technology and seeing how things worked and how it could be used. Often our family remembers him, wondering what he'd think of this or that if he was still around.

  • Peggy, Keith's widow, shared some more:

    Keith and I married and had two children, a boy and a girl. "I was pregnant when he died, but lost the baby."

    Keith had done a tour of service in Vietnam. He was working in the family nursery business -- which he and Mike had bought from their father. He was chief of the fire department.

    Keith also volunteered at a small nearby school, teaching a few computer classes so the kids could learn about them, plus he liked putting them together and tinkering with them. The school kids had a little memorial ceremony after he died.

    Keith and Mike got Keith's last fire call on January 31 and responded toward Glenmora, about five miles south. The elderly woman (late 80s without a driver's license) hit Keith's truck at a crossroad in McNary, Louisiana, about four miles south of Forest Hill. That area is part of the extended small community; some young people who worked for Keith and Mike at the nursery were playing ball in McNary, they saw the aftermath of the crash, and knew it was Keith's truck.

    Almost immediately following the crash, I got word from a young nephew that Keith had been in an accident and had died. My sister-in-law Inez drove me to the accident scene, but I couldn't look, and then to the hospital. Family rallied round but it was very hard.

    We had a funeral and the Louisiana Fallen Firefighters had a memorial service in Baton Rouge. Several years later my daughter Dia and son Joseph and I traveled to Emmitsburg, Maryland to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial ceremony. We laid a wreath for Keith.

    "He was the best..."

    I married again and now live in Ohio with my husband. My children and grandchildren live nearby in neighboring states.

  • From Mike, Keith's brother:

    This is how it was. We had a dispatch system for responding to calls. There were few radios and we had no cell phones in those days. A fire call that came in from the surrounding area would go to the Alexandria Com Center. Alexandria would then call our department and our eight phones in our businesses and homes would ring simultaneously. They would tell us about the fire and where the fire was.

    That day the fire was in Glenmora; we had a mutual aid agreement with the fire department there. Keith took off just ahead of me in his red pickup with a light on the dash and a siren. I got the pumper and left soon after. As Peggy said, an elderly woman who shouldn't have been driving hit Keith's vehicle at the crossroad in McNary and killed both of them. I came upon the scene moments later.

    I was with Keith when he died. I cradled his head as he drew his last breaths. He was my younger brother. We worked together. Our families played together. He was a fine young man, doing good. I miss him... Many do.

    I am still a volunteer for the fire department and enjoy it. At 72 I'm still doing what's necessary and meaningful.

  • Keith's Obituary sent by Peggy:
Keith Polakovich Obituary Keith Polakovich Obituary

 

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • Louisiana Fallen Firefighters: Alexander K Polakovich
  • USFA Memorial Database: Alexander K Polakovich
  • Alexander Keith Polakovich is honored on the USFA National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Maryland (under Louisiana)
Alexander Keith Polakovich under Louisiana Alexander Keith Polakovich under Louisiana

Poem from a family friend:

Memorial Poem Memorial Poem
Memorial Poem 2 Memorial Poem 2

 

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Contributors to this article: Peggy, Cathy Jo, Mike and Inez, Amanda at the WFF, Mellie

 

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