In an emotional ceremony commemorating Calgary firefighters, another two names were added this year to the roll call of those lost in the line of duty and from occupational diseases.
The Calgary Fire Department and the City of Calgary held their annual memorial service at the City Hall plaza, also known as Police Officers and Firefighters Tribute Plaza.
Captains Robert Allan and Gary Pozzo, who died in the past year, were among those names called out and had a final bell tolled, calling the end of their watch.
Calgary Fire Department Chief Steve Dongworth said the choice to be a firefighter, knowing that the possibility of making the ultimate sacrifice is a real one, speaks volumes to the people that the service attracts and retains.
“We have great people, we have people who are committed to our community, and though we do everything we can to minimize the risk, as they as they do, you never know in this in this career,” Dongworth said.
“It says a lot about the character, and the values of the people that come to work for us where they recognize that risk, and they may say goodbye to their families for the last time when they come to that shift.”
60 firefighters lost in past 99 years
Since 1923, 60 firefighters have lost their lives due on active duty calls, through accidents, or through occupational diseases like cancer.
Chief Dongworth said there were two important aspects to honouring fallen firefighters during the annual service.
The first, he said, was to show respect for those members who made the ultimate sacrifice. But also to provide comfort for the loved ones they left behind.
“Almost most importantly, because although they suffered pain, their pain is over, we recognize the pain that those they left suffer, likely for the rest of their lives—family, friends, colleagues, and the community agrees to some degree as well,” he said.
Dongworth said that it also puts emphasis on finding new ways of making firefighters, and firefighting, safer.
“To lose people or not learn from that, and do everything you can to make sure it doesn’t happen again, it would be terrible,” he said.
Codey McIntyre, president of the Calgary Firefighters Association, said that those fallen would have said they were just regular Calgarians, safeguarding the city.
“It was something they believed in and they loved it. However, those fallen brothers and sisters knew the risks when they respond to all calls, as your Calgary firefighters and seconds matter.”
Council thanks firefighters, and families
Mayor Jyoti Gondek, on behalf of Calgary City Council, provided remarks at the service, thanking the families of the fallen,
She said that often times the focus on statistics of how many and why firefighters have died in service presented a cold reality for decision makers building compensation and counselling models.
“I would like to remind us all however, that the work in fighting for change and advocacy is often borne by the families and active members of the fire department who are also holding their grief very close to their hearts,” the mayor said.
“Days like today and events like this are critical to recognize the efforts of all of these folks. Let us remember not only the fallen but also those who are left behind who continue to champion the needs of firefighters in Calgary and in every other jurisdiction.
“Thank you for your ongoing service and commitment to public service. My heart, and the hearts of all members of council and the corporation are with all of you today.”
Aim placed on construction materials, techniques that lead to hotter more toxic fires
McIntyre said that the job of being a firefighter was becoming more difficult.
“With the new construction methods today, the types of products being used in our homes. fires burn hotter and faster than ever before,” he said.
McIntyre said that that firefighters recognize the changing hazards, be that from the fires themselves, the cancer causing chemicals released in fires. That’s has a psychological effect.
Chief Dongworth addressed the issues of building codes after the service. He said that things like lightweight construction and high densification has led to firefighters battling multiple structure fires at a time, and having to be much more careful in how they enter homes.
He said that creating firefighter safe building codes are a complicated issue for the nation.
“We’ve had some success. It’s a complicated process, though, It’s a very political process, lots of different interest groups, industry for interest groups who have, frankly, different interests to ours,” he said.
“I was talking to some people in Ottawa, and there’s a move to have people acknowledge that not only should a building be safe for the occupants of the building, it should also be safe as possible for firefighters coming into the building afterwards to help rescue them, or to extinguish a fire, or deal with an emergency situation.”