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Sometimes being first is a continuous state

August 28, 2011
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

Somebody has to be first.

That's just the way things go.

And Svana Lamb, of Fort Dodge, is as close to a historic first as growing up next to it. To him.

Lamb's brother, Sveinn Eiriksson, an Icelander, will be inducted into a National Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C., for outstanding achievements with the U.S. Nato Fire Department in Iceland. It's the first time a non-citizen has received such an honor.

Because it hasn't happened yet, she's not sure what the proper name of the Hall of Fame is, but she's sure it's a fantastic honor, even if it's posthumous.

Eiriksson, born in 1935, died during heart surgery in London in 1986. But he leaves a legacy for his work with the fire department.

He was only 17 when he joined the 1400th Air Base Group at Keflavik Aiport as a firefighter. Four years later, he was promoted to fire inspector, and in 1961 he transferred to the Navy because the Air Force turned the facility over to the U.S. government and operation of the airport was taken over by the Military Air Transport Service.

In 1963 he was chosen by the Navy as fire chief for the Naval Air Station Keflavik, the first non-citizen appointed to command a U.S. military fire department. For 23 years, his work commanded attention for innovation and excellence.

Lamb said her brother might be best known for saving the town of Vestmannaeyjar, the premier fishing port on Heimaey, the only inhabited isle in the Vestmannaeyjar volcanic archipelago about 30 miles south of Iceland. It was Jan. 23, 1973.

She also said Iceland maybe should be called the Land of Volcanos because there are continuously active volcanos.

In the January 1973 eruption, lava spilled to within 1,100 yards of the center of town. Eiriksson devised a way to use enormous pumps to pull in sea water to combat the lava flow, diverting it away from and saving the town of Vestmannaeyjar.

For that, he received the Iceland Government Order of the Falcon Cross and the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal from the United States, the only foreign national to receive this medal. And now, the National Hall of Fame for a non-citizen.

That's a whole lot of firsts in this man's life.

Lamb and her brother were born on the eastern side of Iceland. She was the adventurer, and moved to Flint, Mich., as a dance instructor, then to Des Moines as a director training dance teachers. Eventually, she met and married William Lamb, and moved to Fort Dodge.

Now here she is, closer to a first - well, many firsts - than most of us will ever be.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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