Local churches are being asked to participate in the Bells Across America for Fallen Firefighters.

Washington Fire Chief Bill Halmich and Father Mike Boehm, Our Lady of Lourdes pastor and fire department chaplain, have sent out letters to all churches in the area asking them to take part.

The sound of a bell holds special significance for firefighters, the letter states.

Historically, the toll of a bell summoned members to the station, signaled the beginning of a shift, notified departments of a call for help, and indicated a call was completed and the unit had returned to the station.

Departments sounded a series of bells when a firefighter died in the line of duty to alert all members that a comrade had made the ultimate sacrifice. This time-honored tradition continues today during the funerals or memorial services for firefighters.

On Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011, those who died in the line of duty during the previous year will be honored during the 30th Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg, Md.

For the first time the bells of the chapel at the national memorial will chime in honor of fallen heroes. As part of this special remembrance, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) is encouraging firefighters across the country to invite their places of worship to participate in Bells Across America for Fallen Firefighters.

Through this grassroots effort, the Foundation is asking religious congregations nationwide to honor the fallen heroes by planning a brief moment of remembrance during their services and/or to ring the bells of their churches during one of their services.

Father Boehm said Our Lady of Lourdes will ring a bell during at the start of its 10 a.m. service Sunday, Oct. 16. He said First Assembly of God also plans to participate.

“We didn’t request a response when we sent out the letters,” said Father Boehm, who he expects many churches in the area to take part.

Our Lady of Lourdes Church also honored firefighters, police officers and ENS responders on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 atacks this past Sept. 11.

The idea for Bells Across America for Fallen Firefighters was created by Col. Bob Ditch, USAF, Retired, EdD (c), EFO/CFO, a fifth generation firefighter who has served in eight fire service agencies in five states over the last 36 years.

As an all-volunteer force, Halmich and Father Boehm said the Washington Fire Department appreciates the community support it receives as well as local first responders.