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Salisbury, N.C., Mourns Lost Firefighters

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A black cloth covered Salisbury s (N.C.) memorial for fallen firefighters Thursday.

Men dressed in white gloves and dark uniforms stood outside the funeral home where the bodies of firefighters Victor Isler and Justin Monroe lay.

And hundreds of residents lined downtown streets as this city paid tribute to the two men who died fighting a mammoth fire a week ago.

More than 2,500 attendees gathered at chapels near the downtown to pay tribute to Isler, 40, and Monroe, 19, who were on a hose line inside the Salisbury Millwork building when flames overtook them. Hundreds of others stood on sidewalks, hands on their hearts, as firetrucks carrying Isler and Monroe passed through the city.

But the public memorial gave way to private ceremony of mourning for the families of the two men, both of whom had recently realized the dream of becoming full-time firefighters.

Isler worked as emergency medical technician in New York and moved to Salisbury a year ago to fight fires.

Monroe asked to ride out on calls with firefighters. He has just gotten his job with Salisbury's fire department last year.

"His dream was to be a true firefighter and that's what you all did for him." Isler's sister Linda Lorenzo said.

Salisbury fire Chief Bob Parnell handed badges and hats to family members of the two men and saluted them.

Another of Isler's sisters, Laura Langdon, told attendees how her brother teased her because he introduced her to her husband.

Monroe's friends told tales of how Monroe was sometimes an overeager hunter who would sometimes shoot at the game first and warn fellow hunters afterward.

Family members said the two men would hate to be praised as special. But any attempt to say they were not would be futile, said Greg Shue, the former chief of Millers Ferry Volunteer Fire Department, who gave Monroe his first job as a volunteer firefighter.

"Obviously, these fellows are heroes in anybody's eyes," Shue said.

Family members planned to take Isler's body to New York for burial. Monroe's body was taken for burial at nearby Rowan Memorial Park.

As the funeral ended, investigators seemed to be wrapping up their probe of the fire's cause.

State and federal investigators had left the millwork building Thursday afternoon. Some of the walls that remained standing after the fire had been leveled.

City officials announced Thursday they would provide an update on the fire investigation, perhaps releasing preliminary report on what started the blaze.

Sharif Durhams: 704-786-2185

Fire investigation

Authorities say they will answer questions today about how a fire may have started that destroyed Salisbury Millwork and killed two firefighters.

Federal investigators have finished their probe of the cause and origin of the millwork fire and plan to release their preliminary findings today, said Earl Woodham, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Woodham said the federal investigators are ready to hand off the probe to local investigators.

Witnesses have said the fire seemed to start in the showroom of the 61-year-old company and that firefighters said they seemed to have it under control. The fire then spread to a loading dock and overcame Salisbury firefighters Victor Isler, 40, and Justin Monroe, 19.

The investigation of the Salisbury fire was conducted by members of the same ATF team that looked into a June warehouse fire in Charleston that killed nine firefighters, Woodham said.

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