Manitoba

Mourners pack funeral of fallen Winnipeg firefighter

Red roses sat next to a photo of Capt. Harold Lessard at a Winnipeg church as more than 750 family members, friends and colleagues attended the veteran firefighter's funeral Thursday afternoon.

Red roses sat next to a photo of Capt. Harold Lessard at a Winnipeg church as more than 750 family members, friends and colleagues attended the veteran firefighter's funeral Thursday afternoon.

Lessard, 55, and Capt. Thomas Nichols, 57, perished while battling a house fire Sunday evening in the city's St. Boniface area.

Recording equipment was not allowed at Lessard's private service, held at the North Kildonan Mennonite Brethren Church.

All the church's 750 pews were full well before the service started at 1 p.m., CBC News reporter Leslie McLaren said.

Two fire trucks were parked back-to-back in the church's parking lot, their cranes raised and crossed with a Canadian flag on top.

"This was a man who was very loved by the people that he worked with," McLaren told CBC Radio's Up to Speed program after the funeral.

"He was honoured for the love he showed back to his crew, to his family and to his community."

Commitment, courage praised

Alex Forrest, president of the the United Fire Fighters Union of Winnipeg, said Lessard was a fun-loving family man who risked his life that night to ensure the safety of his fellow firefighters. He left behind a wife and two children.

Acting fire chief Jim Brennan praised Lessard's commitment and courage, while deputy chief Ken Sim presented the departmental flag to Lessard's family.

Lessard and Nichols died in what fire officials called a "flashover," or sudden explosion of heat, while they were on the second floor of the house.

Two other firefighters — Edward Wiebe, 51, and Lionel Crowther, 33 — remain in hospital Thursday with burn wounds.

Among the colleagues and friends who spoke at the funeral was a young woman who read a message from Crowther, who said he owed a debt of gratitude to Lessard.

A private funeral service for Nichols will be held Monday. The public is invited to attend a memorial on Feb. 14 at 9:30 a.m. at the MTS Centre.

Investigators with Manitoba's fire commissioner's office continue to investigate the blaze, in the hopes of confirming what caused the fire.

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