Centennial Fire District

Honoring those that died in the line of duty

Ingeldew, George C.

May 26, 1969

George went into cardiac arrest at the station after fighting a grass fire.

Lavelle, Robert

November 1, 1980

In 1980, the members of the Circle Pines Fire Department held a Halloween party for members’ families. During the party a fire alarm came in for a grass fire in the field behind the Down Under bar. Some members responded from the party, and others came from home.

Darlene LaValle, wife of Chief LaValle says, "The night of November 1, 1980 my husband and I were at home getting ready to go to a Halloween party. Bob had just finished getting into his costume when the fire call came in. He hurried out of his costume and drove to the fire station. At the station he told the driver of the first truck to leave without him. Normally he would have gone on the first truck. He then told the fireman manning the radio that he was going home. That fireman found Bob shortly thereafter on the fire station driveway apron. He then radioed for help."

The first crew on the scene heard the radio message: “Firefighter down. Send ambulance to fire station.” Chief Bob LaValle had arrived at the fire station from home and had a massive heart attack on the apron of the station. The ambulance was summoned from Unity Hospital. Several of the department members went to the hospital that evening still dressed in costume beneath firefighting gear. Chief LaValle died several hours later, the department’s only death in the line of duty. A plaque was placed at the base of the station’s flagpole in commemoration.

The above provided courtesy from the book “Circle Pines and Lexington Minnesota, History of the 1800s to 2000” by Stephen Lee, a member of the Circle Pines FD and its successor department the Centennial FD. Additional information provided by Darlene LaValle, wife of Chief LaVelle on October 11, 2011.

Note: The Circle Pines FD became part of the Centennial Fire District in 1985. The district combined the Fire Departments from Centerville, Circle Pines and Lexington.

ST. PAUL — The fire department became a fire district, personnel turned over and its culture and identity changed with the times, but the late Circle Pines Fire Chief Robert LaValle was not forgotten.

The Centennial Fire District honored LaValle at the Minnesota Firefighter Memorial dedication Sept. 30 on the State Capitol grounds. Over 200 families who had lost a lost a firefighting loved one were honored at the event.

“It was absolutely wonderful and very moving,” said Darlene LaValle, LaValle’s widow, who attended the event with other family members.

Bob LaValle died in the line of duty in 1980 at the age of 43. It was the day after Halloween, and he was ready to go to a party hosted by a fellow firefighter. A call came in, and LaValle suffered a massive heart attack responding. Last month, LaValle’s name was inscribed at the memorial, recently moved from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport to the state capitol.

“We should never forget those who have lost their lives serving others,” Centennial Fire Chief Jerry Streich said. The Centennial Fire District organized and distributed ceremonial flags to all 207 families who were honored at the event.

Darlene LaValle remembers how much her late husband loved working at the fire department. He began as a volunteer and worked his way up to the chief post, working as a firefighter from 1963 until he died.

LaValle was especially active in waterball competitions, a firefighter game. Opposing sides use a fire hose to spray a suspended ball across boundary line. The game allows firefighters to practice using and aiming hoses while engaging in friendly competition.

“He was very successful at it,” Darlene recalled. “We had so many trophies we almost ran out of room.”

The 6,000-square-foot memorial at the Capitol depicts a firefighter rescuing a child among a grid of metal columns. The Minnesota Fire Service Foundation raised more than $600,000 to fund the memorial.

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