Calgary Fire Department honours fallen members

Bells rang in front of the municipal plaza over the noon hour Wednesday to mark the 10th annual Calgary Fire Department’s memorial for fallen firefighters.

Nearly 80% of them died of occupational cancer

Members of the Calgary Fire Department honour guard at the 10th annual ceremony for fallen firefighters. (CBC)

The noon bell rang 43 times in front of Calgary's municipal plaza Wednesday — once for each of the firefighters who have died over the course of the city's history — marking the 10th annual memorial for the Calgary Fire Department.

"Every day, across this city, the men and women of the Calgary Fire Department give their best in service to their neighbours and to their communities," said Chief Steve Dongworth.

"Many times, that means risking their lives to protect and save others. And sometimes, it means giving their lives to keep us safe."

An outdoor, three-storey monument bears the names and photos of the nine CFD members who have died on active duty dating back to 1923. 

Fire chief Steve Dongworth salutes the memorial at the Tuesday ceremony in Calgary. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

The other 34 names of firefighters who have died from work-related cancer are inscribed on plaques at the CFD headquarters.

One new plaque stands out among the rest — for Francois J. Rivest — who died in 2015 from cancer related to workplace hazards.

"For the longest time, we recognized those people who we knew were lost to the fire scene, or as the result of an accident in a vehicle," said Dongworth.

"We didn't recognize that for some, there was a cumulative effect that had the same outcome — a family lost their loved one," he added.

"It's equally important to recognize those folks as well."

Calgary fire chief Steve Dongworth explains why cancer has claimed so many firefighters' lives

5 years ago
Duration 1:52
Of the 43 Calgary firefighters who have died in service, 34 (roughly 80 per cent) died of occupational cancer. 1:52

Dongworth said the department is increasingly focused on safety and actively monitors its members' health — including mental health.

"There's a continuing conversation now about at what time do we begin to consider post-traumatic stress disorder, where it perhaps leads to suicide, as something that we should consider to be a line of duty death as well."

A bell rang Wednesday, once for each of the nine Calgary firefighters who have died in the line of duty. (CBC)

The annual event began at Mewata Armoury, then the CFD Honour Guard, Pipe and Drums and firefighters marched along Stephen Avenue to city hall.

Flags at fire stations across the city were lowered to half-mast from sunrise to sunset to mark the occasion.

Flags will again be lowered to half-mast on Sept. 17 in honour of the International Association of Firefighters Fallen Firefighter Memorial in Colorado Springs.

With files from CBC Calgary News at 6