Martin County firefighter laid to rest

By Jana Eschbach email
Posted by Rachel Leigh email

PALM CITY, FL (WFLX) - A fallen firefighter was remembered: The first-ever killed in the line of duty in Martin County.

Freddy Pierno was laid to rest Monday in Palm City. Firefighters from across the state came to show their support for a veteran who died not in a fire, but from a virus caught treating a patient.

"With all of the communicable diseases we are exposed to, firefighters have a high risk of being killed in the line of duty," said Chief Jeff Alter. He hired Freddy Pierno in 1991.

Pierno served until 2006 when he was infected by a patient with hepatitis C. That virus, progressed to cancer, and the Freddy they knew grew weaker.

"It is part of the job is what he was telling me. It is the risk that we take," said Pierno's brother, Louis. "He wouldn't blame anybody for this; this was his job."

Pierno died surrounded by family and firefighters last week. The first-ever death for Martin County Fire Rescue in the line of duty.

"To me, somebody - like Freddy, who dedicated his life to the military, to his country, to the county and the community where he lived - he's a hero." said Alter.

His daughter, Jennifer accepts the flag from the department for his 18 years of service.

"Hard to replace a man like Freddy. He lived like he lived, he inspired to be as happy as he could," Cliff Williams, who served with Pierno, described.

"Freddy was just a genuine person. He was full of life; he loved Martin County, loved the people of Martin County," another added.

Pierno will be honored in the U.S. Capital in Washington Tuesday as Congressman Tom Rooney holds a moment of silence on the House floor to honor Pierno and those 17 others in the nation who died in the line of duty this year making the ultimate sacrifice.