A new mural by artist Damon Lamar Reed in a park at Diversey, Kimball and Milwaukee avenues, honoring three Chicago firefighters killed in a fire nearby that was set by an arsonist in 1985.

A new mural by artist Damon Lamar Reed in a park at Diversey, Kimball and Milwaukee avenues honors three Chicago firefighters killed in a fire nearby that was set by an arsonist in 1985.

Katie Anthony / Sun-Times

‘Mural of Heroes,’ version 3, honors 3 fallen Chicago firefighters

Earlier versions stood for decades in the park at Diversey, Kimball and Milwaukee avenues. South Shore artist Damon Lamar Reed created the new one.

For decades, the “Mural of Heroes,” commemorating three Chicago firefighters killed in a 1985 arson fire, has been a fixture in the park at Diversey, Kimball and Milwaukee avenues on the border of Logan Square and Avondale.

But, battered by Chicago’s unforgiving weather, the version that had been up for more than 20 years was taken down last fall and put into storage.

Now, a new version honoring their bravery and sacrifice has replaced it, this one by South Shore artist Damon Lamar Reed.

In the previous mural, the three men who died in the fire — Capt. Daniel Nockels and firefighters Michael Forchione and Michael Talley — were seen in their gear, with angel wings on their backs, fighting flames against a smokey backdrop.

They are still the main imagery in Reed’s piece, but it’s not an exact replica. And that’s by design.

The previous version of “Mural of Heroes” that was removed last fall.

The previous version of “Mural of Heroes” that was removed last fall.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Reed says he tried to better capture what the men really looked like.

He also added a gold silhouette to their wings and portrayed them not amid dark smoke but instead in puffy clouds.

Their work vehicle, Truck 58, is more prominent, too.

A closeup look at Damon Lamar Reed’s mural showing Truck 58 that the three firefighters who were killed in 1985 served on.

A closeup look at Damon Lamar Reed’s mural showing Truck 58 that the three firefighters who were killed in 1985 served on.

Katie Anthony / Sun-Times

Reed’s painting is bookended by names of the two neighborhoods that converge in that spot, which is near where the fire took place.

“I wanted to make it heroic,” the artist says.

Daniel Nockels’ son Paul Nockels says of the results: “Awesome. Wow. . . . Our family is grateful to the city for continuing to remember and honor the memory of my father, firefighter Talley and firefighter Forchione. I hope this new mural serves as a continued reminder of the courage and commitment by those that serve.”

Artist Damon Lamar Reed.

Artist Damon Lamar Reed.

Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

Danny Fortuna, president of the Chicago Fire Pension Board and a retired Chicago firefighter, was at the scene of the Feb. 1, 1985, fire. Fortuna says the mural helps “keep the memory alive not only for those heroes but also the engine, the truck that was there that lost those guys — Truck 58.”

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) dedicated money from his aldermanic fund to the project and says his office worked with the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events “to identify an artist and to begin the process of renovating and restoring the mural.

“A group of local artists, community residents, including representatives of Truck 58, met to discuss which muralist they would like to bring on,” Ramirez-Rosa says. “And once they selected Damon, they met with him to discuss the content.”

The original version of the mural.

The original version of the mural.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa’s office

Reed’s is the third version of the mural.

The first went up months after the fire, with lead artist Jose Luis Berrios recognized at a dedication attended by then-Mayor Harold Washington.

In 1987, an arsonist on parole vandalized the painting, and it needed to be touched up.

In 2000, the mural was destroyed when it was temporarily removed after the building it was on suffered water damage.

A 2000 Chicago Sun-Times article on the plight of the firefighter mural.

A 2000 Chicago Sun-Times article on the plight of the firefighter mural.

It was recreated and installed on a large frame structure in the park, where it remained until being taken down last year in anticipation of Reed’s replacement.

The previous version is now in storage, and there’s been talk of getting it restored and installing it in a fire station.

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Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. Know of a mural or mosaic? Tell us where and send a photo to murals@suntimes.com. We might do a story on it.

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