Pineville community shows support for firefighters

- Authorities say 20-year-old Richard Sheltra lost his life in the line of duty while trying to put out a fire at Edwin Watts golf store located in the Countryside Shopping Center.

Two other firefighters were injured battling the blaze Saturday night just after 9 p.m. in Pineville.

In Pineville it's hard to find someone that isn't somehow connected to the fire department.

"I love my fire department. I love the Pineville Fire Department," said Melissa Hempel, who stopped by to personally thank every firefighter.

Support came from hundreds of others, who stopped by the Pineville Firehouse well into Sunday evening. The men who climb aboard the fire trucks, heroes for the small community.

Being a part of such a tight knit area, Melissa Hempel remembers firefighter Richard Sheltra.

"Fun loving. Lived every minute to the fullest. Very compassionate. Likes to give to anyone and everyone he can," said Hempel.

Perhaps that's why he paid the ultimate sacrifice Saturday night, by running into something most people would run away from. Firefighting is a job shared by dozens of others that make up the Pineville Fire Department.

"I had to come and pay my respects for every one of them and what they do," said Hempel.

The heroic job is also bringing firefighters from across the region together.

"I did not know Richard personally, but when they picked up the phone and said we need help I didn't hesitate," said Bill Suthard of the Huntersville Fire Department.

Some of the emotional help, coming from the memorial stationed out front.

"You know the letters say Thank You. They say thank you for your service that you provided the community and thanking the Pineville firefighters and  I thought that was sweet," said Suthard.

They are letters from those who may need help from Pineville firefighters one day. A simple "thank you", getting many heroes through one their most difficult days.

"I think they are grateful that in one of their hardest times right now that the community is here trying to let them know that hey we are here. We are thinking of you. If there is anything we can do honestly please don't hesitate," said Hempel.

Fire departments from around the area will continue to be stationed in Pineville while firefighters, family and friends continue to mourn.

The high school Richard attended made the following statement:

"Those at South Meck who knew Richard remembered him fondly as a wonderful young man. He will certainly be missed," Principal Dr. Maureen Furr said.

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