Police closed central thoroughfares in Grove City and ladder trucks held an unfurled American flag over South Broad Street.

The name of firefighter Brad Holmes was on church signs and hundreds of firefighters from around the region joined Holmes’ family for his funeral.

“Hey, Brad, you got Grove City shut down, buddy,” his brother, Chief Chris Holmes of Pine Township Engine Company, said at his memorial service Saturday in Grove City College’s Physical Learning Center.

Brad Holmes, 21, died Wednesday from burns received trying to save a woman’s life Feb. 29 at 132 Garden Way, Grove City. The woman, Patricia Andrews-Smith, 40, died in the blaze.

Bag pipes and drums signaled the march of an honor guard, which flanked attendees on both sides with flags and fire axes imprinted with buckles. An organ’s sounds filled the air when the pipes had finished.

Chris Holmes said his brother was the dictionary’s definition of a hero: a man of distinguished courage and ability, known for his noble qualities.

He also called Brad Holmes a “computer whiz,” a joker who liked to get the last word, and at Pine Township Engine Company he would be the first one on a rig during a call. Then he would often stay back and wait on the next call.

“It was always in his blood,” Chris Holmes said. Brad and Chris’s father, Joseph Holmes, is the assistant chief of the volunteer fire department.

“It’s never an easy thing to say goodbye to a fellow firefighter,” Chris Holmes said, quoting a line in his brother’s favorite movie, “Ladder 49.” Battling to keep back tears, he asked for the audience to stand, applaud and say goodbye “to my brother, firefighter Brad Holmes.”

Those in the gymnasium, filled with about 500 mourners, did so to thunderous effect.

Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Chief Darryl Jones also spoke. He said he did not know Brad Holmes but had gathered some stories and details of his life while visiting with family.

One woman told him that while traveling to her first fire, a “fully involved structure fire,” she had told Brad Holmes, “I can’t do this.”

“You can do it, we’ll do it together,” Brad Holmes said, according to Jones.

“That’s called leadership,” Jones said.

Brad Holmes’s friend and fellow firefighter Paul Johnson also spoke. He said it was Brad Holmes who first made him want to be a firefighter, and spoke about his humor while in sticky situations.

In a fire in Sandy Lake, he and Brad Holmes, along with a new firefighter, were in a burning home. The new guy, Johnson said, kept saying over and over the roof was about to collapse.

Then, the roof did come down at the top of the stairs. The rookie firefighter asked what they were going to do.

“Well, don’t turn left at the top of the stairs,” Brad Holmes said, according to Johnson.

Jones said when the black ribbons on the trucks are gone, the honor guard have left and the flags fly at full staff, they can honor Brad Holmes by going above and beyond in their duties.

“It shows the respect for the man who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Jones said. He said Brad Holmes didn’t do it for big bucks. “He did it for just one reason: Commitment.”

At the end of the service, Pine Township firefighters wearing their battered jackets walked behind his casket carrying his gear and smoke-stained helmet.

A processional followed along the way to Crestview Memorial Park, Pine Township, for the interment.

Firetrucks from across the region rolled through town, which was filled with onlookers showing their support.

At the service, Chris Holmes said he wanted to make one promise to his brother. “Tomorrow, when that pager goes off, we will be back on those rigs.”

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