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Firefighters honoured, monument unveiled in Ottawa

laura-kingSept. 10, 2012, Ottawa - Not everyone goes home, and with the unveiling of the Canadian Firefighters Memorial in Ottawa on Sunday, those who have answered their last alarms will be permanently commemorated as selfless professionals who gave their lives doing what they loved.

September 10, 2012
By Laura King

Sept. 10, 2012, Ottawa – Not everyone goes home, and with the unveiling
of the Canadian Firefighters Memorial in Ottawa on Sunday, those who
have answered their last alarms will be permanently commemorated as
selfless professionals who gave their lives doing what they loved.

The $5-million memorial monument – a six-metre-tall firefighter created from brass couplings donated by fire departments from across Canada, and a granite wall of names designed by British Columbia artist Douglas Coupland and landscape architect Mary Tremain to mirror the rugged Canadian landscape –  was dedicated yesterday to the 1,111 firefighters who have died in the line of duty since 1848 on the job or from work-related illnesses.

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The
six-metre statue of a firefighter, pointing to the wall of names. The
statue is made of brass couplings donated by fire departments from
across Canada.
Photo by Laura King.


 

The names of 12 firefighters were added to the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation (CFFF) list of line-of-duty deaths on Sunday, including 25-year-old captain and training officer Daniel Botkin, who was killed in an explosion in Enderby, B.C. in December 2011, and Listowell, Ont., firefighter Ray Walter and Deputy District Chief Kenneth Rea of the North Perth Fire Department, who died when the roof of a dollar store collapsed on top of them in  March 2011. Helicopter pilot Jean-Luc Deba died fighting the wildfire in Slave Lake in May 2011. Fire Chief Kurt Gantner of the Tagish Fire Department in Yukon died of an unknown medical condition while on scene investigating a fire in August 2011.

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Acting Capt. David Gray, 48, of the Toronto Fire Services, Battalion Chief James Banting, 51,  of the Fort McMurray Fire Department, Capt. Bill Duncan, 56, of the Kitchener Fire Department,  firefighter John Gordon, 55, of the Prescott Fire Department in Ontario, Fire Chief Ken Day , 47,of the LaSalle Fire Services in Ontario, Capt. Frank LeClair, 56, of  Quinte West fire & Emergency Services in Ontario, and firefighter Larry Pilkey , 52, of Markham Fire & Emergency Services all died of work-related illnesses.

Gov. Gen. David Johnston honoured firefighters at the ceremony Sunday at the monument site, down the street from Parliament Hill, noting that firefighters are willing to “go the wrong way” into danger to protect people and property.

More than 1,000 firefighters from across Canada attended the ceremony, marching under clear skies to the monument site across from the Canadian War Museum. With heavy rain on Saturday, few firefighters who ventured to Ottawa for the weekend had visited the monument before Sunday’s service and hundreds stayed on the site afterwards to have photos taken, in uniform, at the wall of names.

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Gov. Gen. David Johnston places a helmet representing those who died in the line of duty. Photo by Laura King.


 

Families of fallen firefighter made rubbings of the names on the wall; the names are grouped in “clouds” on the section of the wall that represents the geographic location at which they died.

Many firefighters – from coast to coast to coast – said they were overwhelmed by the camaraderie among the hundreds who attended the weekend’s activities, which included the CFFF dinner Saturday night and social events organized by the Ottawa Fire Department.

“We didn’t know what to expect in Ottawa,” said Dennis LeBlanc, a volunteer firefighter from Lunenburg, N.S., who started saving money months ago to make the trip to the nation’s capital for the monument unveiling.

“The friendliness, the brotherhood – it’s more than we could have imagined.”

CFFF president Robert Kirkpatrick, for whom the monument was a lengthy labour of love, dedicated the monument to the 1,111 firefighters who have died protecting lives and property.

The monument was paid for with $500,000 in donations, $2 million raised by the CFFF and $2.5 million from the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Click here to view more photos from the ceremony.