Fallen firefighters remembered

Sergeant Sebastien Cournier-Cote, a firefighter from CFB Borden, stands sentry during the memorial. Photo by Linda Matta, Waken Photography

Sergeant Sebastien Cournier-Cote, a firefighter from CFB Borden, stands sentry during the memorial. Photo by Linda Matta, Waken Photography

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Two CFB Esquimalt firefighters travelled to the nation’s capital earlier this month to attend a memorial honouring 67 of their fallen comrades.

This year’s 15th annual Canadian Firefighters Memorial Ceremony, Sept. 9 at the Ottawa Fire Service Memorial, was hosted by the Department of National Defence Fire Service.

Keith Lee, Captain of CFB Esquimalt Fire and Rescue Services No. 2 platoon, and fellow firefighter Brad McPhee were informed in early June that they had been selected to act as representatives from the base. 

They were joined by approximately 600 firefighters including representatives from all of Canada’s military fire departments.

The ceremony honoured both civilian and military firefighters killed in the line of duty or from work-related illnesses. The memorial also included a parade by the Toronto Fire Department’s pipe and drum band, the unveiling of a symbolic ­helmet that was presented to the loved ones of 10 of the deceased, and the dedication of a plaque on the site’s memorial wall.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among ­dignitaries who attended and addressed the gathering. While standing to the left of ­family members of the fallen he described firefighters as brave men and women who answer the call to duty with “courage and distinction.”

A memorial at the site now includes the names of 1,411 firefighters who have died since 1848.

Lee, 60, says there was a collective outpouring of grief on the day and the significance of the occasion was not lost on him or any of the others attending.

He has accumulated 39 years as a civilian firefighter at CFB Esquimalt; he first started working at the base in 1979. He says peer support is the glue that cements an unbreakable bond for him and other members of his trade.

“There truly is a huge bond between firefighters because we look out for each other on day-to-day operations. We train together, eat together, know what others are doing on our days off, and support each other through all sorts of problems much like a family does.”

Among the fallen fire­fighters Lee was thinking about most during the ceremony was former CFB Esquimalt Fire and Rescue’s Dave Hill who died from a work-related illness in 2012. Lee and his station mates have kept Hill’s ­memory alive by lavishly decorating one of the department’s fire trucks with Christmas ornaments each holiday season, something Hill took pride in doing.

Hill was honoured on the site’s memorial’s wall during the 2015 ceremony while his daughter Jodi Hill received a bursary from Doug Lock Memorial Scholarship fund offered through the Canadian Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation (CFFF).   

For more information about the CFFF visit their website at www.cfff.ca

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