By James Haley
By James Haley
He was on the job less than two weeks before his untimely death, but he was a firefighter. The risks are known although never expected. And he won’t be forgotten. Nor will his senior colleague, also lost as a result of that fateful incident March 17 in Yellowknife, N.W.T. Fire Fighter Kevin Olson, 24, and Lieut. Cyril Fyfe, 41, both made the supreme sacrifice in the service of their community.
LEFT: Lieut. Cyril Fyfe – RIGHT: Fire Fighter Kevin Olson
Firefighters and emergency services personnel from across Canada paid homage to two of our brothers, buried in separate, emotional ceremonies with full departmental honours. Olson, a rookie with Yellowknife, was from Calgary, Alta., and had been recently hired by Yellowknife. His funeral took place in Calgary, March 24. The funeral for Fyfe, the father of five, was held in Yellowknife on Monday, March 28. The Yellowknife Fire Department (YKFD) and Yellowknife IAFF Local 2890 also held a joint Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial Service for Fyfe and Olson on Tuesday, March 29, at the Yellowknife Community Arena.
The loss of Olson and Fyfe marked the first line-of-duty deaths in the Yellowknife Fire Department’s history. The two were part of a crew called to a fire at a hardware store about 7 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day. According to initial media reports they were inside with an attack line battling a fire in a shed attached to the store, where lumber was cut.
Another crew was up on the snow-covered roof working at ventilation when the roof caved in on top of Fyfe and Olson. The firefighters who were on the roof when it collapsed managed to get out safely, and without serious injuries. Both Olson and Fyfe were rescued from the shed and sent to hospital. Olson died that day of injuries sustained in the collapse. Fyfe was seriously injured and placed on life support. He died Monday, March 21. Television station CFRN reported that the family of Fyfe decided to take him off life support. He had been in a coma. He was an 18-year veteran firefighter and life-long Yellowknife resident.
The blaze did not spread to the store. Building owner Chuck Corothers told Global TV there were two electrical heaters in the roof of the shed. He said damage seemed to be concentrated in the shed’s ceiling. “It’s probably one of the heaters that might have caused it,” he said.
Cyril Fyfe joined the YKFD as a volunteer in November 1987 and began his full-time career in April 1989. He had been a lieutenant since 2002. Well respected by all his colleagues and peers, he will be sorely missed by his friends, family, colleagues, City of Yellowknife residents, respective community and volunteer fire fighters and all the brothers and sisters of the IAFF.
Kevin Olson joined the department this year, recently moving from Calgary. He had been on the job just 11 days. He was a graduate of the Emergency Services Academy in Alberta and his dream was to be a firefighter. A brother-in-law is on the Calgary Fire Department. Olson was also newly married.
A Memorial Trust Fund has been established in his memory. “Our family wishes to aid in the fulfilment of young people’s dreams in the honourable profession of fire fighting,” the family said in a public statement. Donations can be made at any TD Canada Trust Bank across Canada in the name of Fire Fighter Kevin Olson, noting Branch #0397 and Account #6267386.
Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the families of these two brave fire fighters, and to their colleagues with the YKFD.
Rest in peace, never to be forgotten
A poem dedicated to the men and women of the emergency services – Fire, EMS and Police
Selflessly, they answer the call.
Be it pager, radio or telephone,
They answer them all.
The pure of heart with passion and kindness
Proves to be timeless.
An outstretching arm,
To assist those who have fallen.
A lighthouse in the storm
A beacon of light to them, for whom they care,
Rich man or peasant
Whoever they are.
They wear different uniforms but inside are the same
A badge pinned to the heart,
Courage its name.
Holding back tears for those in pain
It affects them the same.
But they must remain focused and strong
For those all around;
It’s to help the healing along.
So when you see them, make sure you say
Thank you – it may be your life
They save one day.
Patrick Wuori, Firefighter
Station #1, Huntsville, Ont.
Editor’s note: Patrick was inspired to compose this poem in honour of a local ‘911 Services Recognition Week’ in his community. We thought it appropriate to publish here.