ST. LOUIS – “The night Balko died, we didn’t just lose a working member of the fire department; we lost a family member. He was part of my family at home with my kids. He was part of the K-9 team. And he was part of the St. Louis Fire Department,” said Brent Sevener, Balko’s handler and a St. Louis firefighter.

With Balko’s collar on a cross and his ashes feet away, the St. Louis Fire Department family gathered Wednesday to honor their fallen K-9. Balko’s handler, Sevener, recalled the K-9’s will to work and skill for sneaking snacks.

“When we’d wake up in the morning, and I’d grab my backpack, he’d get excited knowing he was getting ready to come into work,” Sevener said. “He’d be waiting for somebody to make popcorn, so he could scoop it up off the ground.”

The memorial began with a procession down South Jefferson to Engine House 1. Balko fell to his death on March 3 during a search operation at the former Famous Barr building downtown. The 6-year-old Hanoverian hound from Germany was with the fire department for about three and a half years. He’s credited with finding nine bodies in his career.

St. Louis Mayor Tushaura Jones presented Sevener with a proclamation declaring March 15, 2023, “Balko Day” in the City of St. Louis. A deserving distinction to commemorate Sevener and Balko’s revered relationship.

“In the bible, in the book of Proverbs 12 and 10, it says a righteous man regards the life of his animal,” said Capt. Leon Whitener for the St. Louis Fire Department. “Firefighter Sevener, hold your head high, for the Lord has declared you a righteous man.”

That call to faith under the flying flag on a day the St. Louis Fire Department remembered a dog they will never forget.