Fallen St. Paul fire captain, Hopkins assistant fire chief added to state memorial
Sunday was a solemn but meaningful day for the families of two fallen firefighters: Hopkins Assistant Fire Chief James “Jimmy” Scanlon and St. Paul Fire Capt. Chris Parsons. Both died in the line of duty in the past year, on Nov. 4, 2022 and June 15, 2023, respectively.
Their names joined 242 others engraved in steel on the Minnesota Fallen Firefighters Memorial during the annual memorial service on the State Capitol grounds.
The Minnesota Fire Service Foundation has held the ceremony for 11 years, according to Foundation President Jay Wood. Gov. Tim Walz and Department of Public Safety Commissioner Bob Jacobson spoke in remembrance, addressing a front row full of loved ones of the fallen.
Kevin Parsons remembered his only brother, Capt. Parsons, as a humble man. They were always close, he said.
“I’ve never known life without my brother,” Parsons said. “Even though he was putting his life on the line everyday, we were never really worried about him, just seemed like another day for him.”
“It’s still unreal,” he said. “There’s times where I want to talk to him or send a text message or something. You know, something that happened, you know, ‘Oh, Chris would like to know about this,’ and unfortunately, he’s not there anymore.”
As he stood in front of the State Capitol, Parsons was emotional and equally proud, he said.
His brother, Capt. Parsons, was a champion of legislation helping to secure safer working conditions for firefighters and financial assistance for when they are injured or suffering from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Hopkins Fire Chief Dale Specken also spoke about the loss of Assistant Chief Scanlon.
“It hit us all really hard because it was so unexpected,” he said.
Scanlon, who was 38 years old when he died, was also a dispatch supervisor in Bloomington and everyone’s “go-to IT guy,” Specken shared.
He also responded to about 85% of the Hopkins Fire Department’s calls during his 14 years there, according to the chief.
“Jim was one of our most active members,” Specken said.
“I mean, we found out, you know, obviously after Jim passed, that there were a lot of things that we didn’t know that he just did and just never said anything. And so, that’s a huge — it’s a huge hole for our department. It’s a huge loss and it’s one that obviously we’ll never forget.”
“Both of those two individuals played an incredible role in building this memorial and having this memorial service every year,” Wood added. “Chris Parsons, especially, single-handedly has done more for the fire service across all lines, career to non-career, for small town firefighters to the big cities like St. Paul, to help make life better.”
“He really wanted to serve,” Kevin Parsons added, speaking of his brother. “It wasn’t for glory or anything. It was, he just saw that there was a need out there, and he really thought that he could make a difference. So that’s what he fought for every day.”
Scanlon was behind the years of smooth-running audio at the service for the past decade, Wood added.
The sentiment was shared by Gov. Walz in his remarks. He called Parsons a personal friend.
As the ceremony came to a close, Wood remarked that his wish for the next year is that there will be zero new names to add, only continued remembrance of Minnesota’s 244 fallen firefighters etched in steel.