In recognizing the sacrifice of fallen firefighters, we honor their dedication and sacrifice. The significance of their contributions can never be forgotten. While they are dearly missed, their legacy lives on in the spirit of those who continue to serve.
Melvin “Curly” Johnson was Ottumwa’s first line of duty death. He died May 11, 1939, as a result of injuries suffered fighting the J.C. Penny Fire. Brother Johnson was 23 years of age and was survived by his parents, 3 brothers and 1 sister.
Inspector George Wittenmeyer passed away April 8, 1942 while fighting the F.W. Woolworths fire. He was a 17 year veteran of the Ottumwa Fire Department. Wittenmeyer was survived by his wife Harriet, 1 son, 1 stepson, his mother, 2 brother and 2 sisters. He was 43 years old at the time of his death. He was Ottumwa’s second line of duty death.
George Jennings, a 14 year veteran of the Ottumwa Fire Department, died March 10, 1957 while fighting the Ruckers Poulty Farm Fire. He was survived by his wife Viola, 1 daughter, 1 son, 4 sisters and 1 brother. Jennings was Ottumwa’s third line of duty death. He was 53 years old when he died.
Lt. Kenneth Bitner died November 13, 1963 from injuries suffered fighting a residential fire on October 23, 1963. He was 52 years old at the time of his death. Bitner was a 19 year veteran of the Ottumwa Fire Department. He was survived by his wife Lola, 3 sons and 3 daughters. Lt. Bitner was Ottumwa’s 4th line of duty death.