15 years after line-of-duty death, Lexington firefighter's legacy lives on

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The eternal flame will never go out at the Lexington Fallen Firefighters Monument at Phoenix Park.

For those working with Lt. Brenda Cowan on Friday, February 13, 2004 it is a permanent reminder, much like the memories themselves that 15 years can't erase - and a lifetime never will.

"I remember the dispatch. I remember what we saw when we first pulled up," said Jeff Godby, a firefighter/paramedic who worked with Cowan and was also with her at the scene on that day 15 years ago. "A lot of things about that day I remember. I remember the gunshots."

Lt. Cowan was killed in the line of duty when she was shot after responding to a call. Another firefighter was also shot in what turned out to be a six-hour standoff after a man shot his wife.

Cowan was the city's first African-American female firefighter. She had just recently been promoted to lieutenant. Those who knew her and worked with her say she always had a smile on her face.

"I don't ever remember seeing her have a bad day," Godby said.

Even today, 15 years after her death, Cowan's legacy lives on. Firefighters say a number of procedures were changed after Cowan's death - particularly now having paramedics 'stand by' until a scene is secure.

Her legacy is also alive in the next generation. Last year the Lexington Fire Department launched a camp in Cowan's memory, inspiring young people to begin a career helping others, just like Cowan did so many years ago.

"Don't forget her," Godby said. "She gave up her life for this county, for this community, for the people and the citizens here. We owe her a debt of gratitude."

After pleading guilty in 2009, Patrick Hutchinson was sentenced to 25 years in prison for killing Lt. Cowan, plus 20 years for killing his own wife, 10 years for shooting another firefighter, and another 10 years for shooting at a police officer - all from that day 15 years ago. The sentences are running concurrently.

Hutchinson is currently at the Kentucky State Reformatory. Online records show he is eligible for parole in December 2028.

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