Friends, colleagues remember fallen firefighter
Alameda Fire Captain Scott Carnevale was remembered Friday as an avid adventurer and outdoorsman who was loved and respected by his peers for his calm, integrity, dedication and dependability.
“He was one of the strongest, most caring men I have ever known. We will all truly miss him,” Alameda Firefighters Association president Domenick Weaver told a crowd of about 500 people assembled at a memorial service for Carnevale aboard the USS Hornet. Roughly half of those were firefighters from all over California and beyond.
Carnevale, 42, died January 3 after a 10-month battle with cancer. Firefighters said Carnevale – who spearheaded a successful effort to get Alameda firefighters to being reporting chemicals and other hazards they’re exposed to during calls – contracted the disease that killed him on the job.
“The irony that this disease, this cancer that had affected so many, would claim him, was unbelievable,” Weaver said. “He fought this battle every day to the end, with dignity.”
Carnevale grew up in Marin County and graduated from Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley. He spent a few years attending community college in Santa Barbara and then moved on to Lake Tahoe to spend his time skiing.
When he returned to Marin in search of something more stable – and to spend time camping and surfing with friends – Carnevale suffered a life-threatening injury that focused him on seeking out a career helping others.
“He realized he had been given a gift. And he wanted to repay it,” said Bret Smith, a longtime friend who followed Carnevale into the fire service.
Carnevale came to the Alameda Fire Department in 1997, after working for the fire department at Alameda Point. Interim Fire Chief Michael Fisher, who praised Carnevale for his integrity and dedication, said he immediately recognized that Carnevale was special.
Fisher said Carnevale helped restore the department’s two antique fire rigs, one of which was parked outside the Hornet on Friday. He said Carnevale also took it upon himself to repaint the insignia at the front door of Station Three.
During his time at the department, Carnevale rose from driver to captain at Station Two on Pacific Avenue, and he served on the department’s Fire Labor Management Team and an executive board trustee and shift vice president for the Alameda Firefighters Association.
In addition to being an outdoorsman, he was remembered as an adventurer who traveled the world in pursuit of outdoor fun – and as a storyteller who could keep stories fresh with each telling.
His memorial was preceded by a procession of more than three dozen fire apparatus from all over Northern California. The procession stopped to pick up Carnevale’s wife of 15 years, Liz, and his 8-year-old son, Kyle, at Station Two, which was decorated to commemorate Carnevale’s passing.
“He was dependable. Any assignment he got was going to be taken care of,” said Alameda Fire Captain Doug Long, as Carnevale’s son played on a rig nearby. Long said colleagues called Carnevale “Rooty Toots” for his love of root beer floats.
The memorial – which included a traditional honor guard, flag presentation and bell ceremony – had been requested by Carnevale as a last effort to draw attention to the hazards of being a firefighter. Alameda fireman Jeff DelBono said the department has seen seven cases of cancer over the past decade, and two deaths.
“We are seeing the rates of cancer in firefighters continue to rise even though we have the best protective gear known to man,” said Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters, which manages the exposure tracking program Carnevale engaged the department in. Paulson said nobody knows why the cancer rates are rising, though he said scientists have been able to establish links between the disease and deadly toxins firefighters are often exposed to during fires.
The tradition-rich service closed with a last call broadcast over the Hornet’s radio.
“This is the Alameda Fire Department calling Scott Richard Carnevale. This is your last call and you are going home.”
In lieu of flowers, food and other gifts, Carnevale’s family has requested a donation be made in Scott’s name to the Scott Carnevale Memorial Fund for cancer research. Payment can be made by check to Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 18 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941, or online, at http://scottcarnevale.com.
During the service, Alameda’s fire stations were covered by crews from the Alameda County, Albany, Berkeley, Hayward, Fremont, Oakland and Piedmont fire departments.