NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – One year ago today, a tragedy that will never be forgotten. New Haven Firefighter Ricardo Torres Jr. was killed while battling a house fire.

His heroic sacrifice is one of many now honored at the Firemen’s Monument. That tribute is well over a century old and is still going strong. It’s nestled at a quiet place in New Haven’s Evergreen Cemetery, standing strong and tall, the Firemen’s Monument and burial plot.

It’s located at a place of solace, respect, and strength, dedicated in 1877. It was purchased by the New Haven Firemen’s Benevolent Association to treasure the memory of New Haven firefighters.

“Our history stretches back through a large portion of American and New Haven history, and thousands of firefighters have served in this department,” said Justin Bialecki, New Haven Fire Department Battalion Chief.

“Everybody’s in this profession to help people. There’s no greater joy than being able to serve your community and actually see positive outcomes of someone who’s having their worst day,” said Justin McCarthy, New Haven Fire Department Assistant Chief.

For New Haven’s Fire Department, that worst day was May 12, 2021, when Ricardo Torres Jr. sacrificed it all to rush inside a burning Valley Street home to rescue victims. Torres Jr. didn’t make it out alive. His partner, Lt. Samod Rankins was severely injured.

City of New Haven honors the life of fallen firefighter Ricardo Torres Jr.

In times like this, the Benevolent Association steps forward to support and assist their own in their greatest hour of need.

“It’s about serving our firefighter family, the families of our firefighters. From the newest rookies to retirees,” said Christopher Brigham, New Haven Fire Department Captain.

“The reason why we’re strong is because the body is strong because the people that give to this are only firefighters, and we give back to them,” said Rob Celentano, Vice President of the Benevolent Association.

At Central Station, a plaque honors those who died in the line of duty going all the way back to 1901. In 1982, another firefighter, Joe Decato, came up with the idea to honor the rest. Those men and women who passed away from the line of work.

News 8’s Rich Coppola knows first-hand how much that gesture means to the families of the firefighters as his father was a firefighter in New Haven.

“We’ve talked about your dad, and I was able to go right into our files. I was able to find your father’s file. We keep all that history. I’m able to see the date when he was hired. I’m able to see how he performed on the test to get into the Fire Marshall’s office. We keep a track of history here and that’s something we take a lot of pride in,” McCarthy said.

“We do like to honor those that came before us, that paved the way for us to have such a great career. The greatest job in the world as we always call it,” Brigham said.

McCarthy comes from a long line of firefighters and is among those credited with saving a suicidal man hanging out a window at the old Duncan Hotel in 2009.

What is it that separates first responders, in this case, firefighters, from the rest?

“Until you actually see the result of saving someone’s life, you don’t realize how empowering that is for somebody, and what you see in the fire service is really unlike any other profession,” McCarthy said.

More evidence of the strong firefighter brotherhood is the Connecticut Firefighter’s Memorial in Windsor Locks, which was dedicated in 2002.

It recognizes all of the state’s firefighters killed in the line of duty.