4 names added to Calgary Firefighters Memorial as members remember their fallen colleagues – Calgary | Globalnews.ca

Calgary firefighters mourned the loss of four of their colleagues last year at an annual ceremony outside City Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

The memorial, intended to honor firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty or due to illness due to fire fighting, now displays the names of 58 fallen firefighters.

On the second Tuesday in September, a ceremony is held for members of the fire department and the public to honor the lives lost.

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Senior Firefighter Harry Skakum, Capt. John Doherty, Capt. Roger Thompson, and Capt. Donald Taylor all died of occupational cancers in spring 2020.

Skakum retired from firefighting in 1979 and Taylor retired in 1987, and Thompson and Doherty retired in 1993 and 1994 respectively. All four served in the fire department for more than 20 years.

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The president of the union representing Calgary firefighters said work-related cancer must be addressed.

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“Some of the fallen that we honor here today we lost in the field of fire. They never got to say goodbye to their friends or family. Some fell to the silent demons that lurked in the shadows of this profession, feeling powerless to ask for help, and too many lost their lives in a protracted battle with work-related cancer, ”said the president of Firefighters Association Local 205. from Calgary, Codey McIntyre.

“These issues that I speak about can and should be addressed in close collaboration with the city.

“We will make this profession safer.”

Fire Chief Steve Dongworth said there has not been a traumatic death to a firefighter on duty in Calgary since 1992, but more firefighters are succumbing to illnesses related to their years of service.

Click to play video: 'Calgary Fire Chief Concerned About Firefighters Protesting COVID-19 Vaccine'

Calgary Fire Chief Concerned About Firefighters Protesting COVID-19 Vaccine

Calgary Fire Chief Concerned About Firefighters Protesting COVID-19 Vaccine

“That is the challenge with cancers; there’s a lag effect where you don’t really see the impact of what you’re doing today for decades, ”Dongworth said.

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“We are seeing the people that we are recognizing today who were in the service 30, 40 years ago when there was not the same level of knowledge. There was not the same training, there was not the same team. There was no health check to help them perhaps as there is today for firefighters ”.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the city and fire department have improved occupational health and safety for the occupation, including the use of better equipment.

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“It is quite clear that it is in fact true that long-term exposure to some of the hazardous materials that firefighters are exposed to can lead to cancers in the future, and obviously that is not something that any of us want.” . Nenshi said on Tuesday.

“We will continue to work not just with the local fire union, but with each municipality to find ways to keep firefighters safe on the job and after they retire.”

Dongworth said he is confident that the practices implemented over the years will help identify illnesses in retired firefighters earlier in an effort to prevent deaths from firefighting-related cancers.

“Every firefighter has the option each year to get a full medical evaluation, which also focuses a lot on occupational diseases,” Dongworth said.

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“Almost every day, we think of additional things we can do to make our firefighters safer.”

‘Lower rate of COVID-19 infection’

The COVID-19 case rate in Calgary firefighters is among the lowest of its peers, Dongworth said Tuesday.

“[These] Over the past 18 months, we have faced a new health risk as we navigate and continue to navigate a global pandemic, ”Dongworth said during the annual firefighters memorial ceremony.

“First of all, I am incredibly grateful that we have had a lower COVID-19 infection rate among Calgary firefighters than many other cities. But I am also well aware that in other cities in North America, we have lost hundreds of our fellow firefighters to this terrible disease. “

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The fire marshal said that since the beginning of the pandemic, about 100 members of the Calgary Fire Department have tested positive in about 1,500 firefighters, a rate of 6.7 percent.

Dongworth said he has heard of cities with much higher rates of COVID-19 cases.

“I sit on calls with my colleagues across North America … and many of them have experienced 15, 25 percent or more,” he told reporters.

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Dongworth said the cases within the fire department generally followed the first three waves of the pandemic.

“We are certainly seeing a small increase now with the fourth wave, there is no question.”

Last week, the Calgary Firefighters Association shared that 85 percent of its members were fully vaccinated.

Dongworth credited the character of its firefighters, saying they take the necessary precautions to stay safe and be able to serve the community.

“They get it. They understand the fact that they don’t want to get sick, they don’t want to bring illness to their family, ”said the fire marshal. “And they also understand the fact that if they are sick, they cannot be serving their community.

“That is probably the most important reason why our people are highly motivated to protect this community.”

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