New firefighter statue pops up at Bristol's Firemen's Park

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 4/24/24

It appeared suddenly about a week ago, but the statue of the firefighter has actually been a plan in the works for nearly 20 years.

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New firefighter statue pops up at Bristol's Firemen's Park


It appeared suddenly about a week ago — first a granite base was sited on the south side of the Firemen’s Memorial Park, on the harbor at the bottom of Church Street. Then a bronze figure of a firefighter, slightly larger than life at 7 feet tall, was fixed to the base.

But according to Chief Michael DeMello, the process was anything but sudden. The Firemen’s Memorial Welfare Committee has been fundraising and working on the plan for the sculpture for nearly two decades.

“We’ve known for years it was something we wanted to do, but it took quite a bit of time to raise the money,” said DeMello. The total cost of the sculpture was about $80,000, paid for with donations and fundraisers.

Victoria Guerina is the artist who created the Firefighter. Rhode Island-based, she is a member of the board of Art League RI. When DeMello reached out to local artist and Art League co-founder Nancy Goucher Thomas and let her know what her was looking for, it was Guerina who Thomas recommended.

Though she works in several mediums, Guerina prefers clay, either fired or cast. Her portfolio includes several significant public sculptures, including one of Boston Marathon bombing victim Martin Richard, located on the campus of Bridgewater State University; and “The First Wave”, 20 lifesize bronze figures, located at the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, N.Y., representing some of the attendees of the First Women’s Rights Convention held there in 1848.

DeMello and the Committee had a pretty good idea what they wanted for a design. There is a standing figure of a fireman in Pawtucket, and that was basically the type of sculpture they were looking for, but that figure is wearing old-fashioned garb, and they were interested in an updated look.

“The Chief was an ideal client,” said Guerina.

She presented her ideas, and followed up with a 14” clay maquette, a small preliminary study, of her vision, of which the Committee requested minor adjustments. From there, she had to enlarge the figure into a 7-foot tall model, a process that took about 10 months and nearly 500 pounds of clay.

“Thanks to everyone who had this dream for many years, and brought it to fruition,” said DeMello, who also offered thanks to Sincere Metalworks, the foundry that cast the sculpture, as well as Granites of America for donating the base, and DaPonte’s Landscaping Services for site work and installation.

The sculpture will be dedicated at this year’s Fireman’s Memorial service, scheduled for Sunday, June 9.

For Guerina, the commission was an opportunity to honor a profession for which she has a tremendous amount of respect.

“I wanted to show the Firefighter as a hero, because that is of course what they are; and I wanted his expression to show sacrifice, determination, dedication and resolve,” she said. “Everything from his pose, to the drape of the rumpled uniform is meant to show fatigue, and the toll firefighting takes. It is phenomenal that so many do this job.”

Guerina knew she had hit her mark when DeMello visited her studio to give final approval before sending the full-sized model to the foundry to be cast in bronze.

His parting words?

“This guy looks like he’s ready to go to work.”

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