New Brunswick

'A firefighter's firefighter': Lt. Danny Finnigan remembered in line-of-duty funeral

Among those who put out fires for a living, Lt. Danny Finnigan was known as a "banger," the word for an aggressive firefighter.

Firefighters from all over the Atlantic provinces were in Saint John on Monday for the service

Finnigan was remembered in a line-of-duty funeral. He died July 10. (Fundy Funeral Home)

Among those who put out fires for a living, Lt. Danny Finnigan was known as a "banger," the word for an aggressive firefighter.

"He was a wrecking ball inside a building," Peter Alexander, the former president of Saint John Firefighters Association Local 771, said Monday outside Finnigan's funeral.  

"And we need that aggressive firefighting and, you know, he was that guy."

Finnigan, known to friends and colleagues as Big Finn, died last week of cancer, but he was given the funeral of a firefighter who died in the line of duty.  

Alexander said Finnigan, a firefighter for 32 years, had one of the cancers that have been linked to firefighting.  

"And here we are today," he said as firefighters from across the Atlantic provinces gathered to remember Finnigan. "We're heavy-hearted today."

Lt. Danny Finnigan's helmet sits on the front of a fire truck from Saint John Fire Department station No. 6. (Brian Chisolm/CBC)

An honour guard led a procession of firefighters into the funeral home, accompanied by a bagpipe band.  

Chief Kevin Clifford said Finnigan was passionate about the job to the end.

"We're gonna miss him. We'll remember him for a long time. Forever."

Clifford said firefighters never want to have to do a line-of-duty funeral, but it is a way of honouring the families. 

Kevin Clifford, the Saint John fire chief, said Finnigan, who died at 58, had a work-related cancer. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

He said Finnigan died with a work-related cancer but the chief would not disclose the type, citing privacy. WorksafeNB covers 10 different cancers for firefighters.

The funeral was so packed with friends, family, colleagues and local dignitaries that it was standing-room only at the back of the small funeral home chapel. Many of the firefighters were also seated in an overflow room off to the side.  

When the service was over, Finnigan's casket was carried out and placed on the bed of a firetruck. Then, along with family members and friends following behind in cars, it was driven to the Church of Good Shepherd cemetery. 

Love of the job

Alexander called Finnigan a "firefighter's firefighter."

He started at the Saint John Fire Department in February 1987. He worked all over and ended his career on the lower west side at No. 6 station, where he was a lieutenant.

Regardless of his position, he always wanted to be part of the action.

Finnigan's casket was placed in the bed of a firetruck and driven to the cemetery. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

"As a lieutenant, when you're not supposed to be doing, you know, fire attack, Dan was the guy that was still there, you know, grabbing the axe … and doing what he always did," Alexander said.

Clifford said Finnigan never stopped loving his job. 

"What I remember most of it Dan is that, you know, after 32 years he loved this job just as much as he did the day he got here," he said. 

Peter Alexander, former president of the Local 771 Saint John Firefighters Association, called Finnigan an aggressive firefighter. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Finnigan's love of the job extended beyond the actual fighting of fires. Throughout his career, he was also a mentor to younger people joining the department, Alexander said.

Larger than life

Both Clifford and Alexander used the phrase "larger than life" to describe Finnigan. 

"Dan was a big, big man," Clifford said. "And he had this intimidating presence in his physical stature, but he was warm, he cared a great deal about people."

Firefighters from all over the Atlantic region processed down the street and into the funeral home to honour Lieutenant Danny Finnigan. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Alexander remembers Finnigan was always joking with people around the office, but when it came time for action, he would get serious. 

"His whole career I just thought, you know, everybody respected Dan. You know, he was a bigger-than-life kind of character," he said. "Big Dan Finnigan was one of our best. He was a firefighter's firefighter."

About the Author

Sarah Kester

Reporter

Sarah Kester is a reporter at CBC in Saint John, New Brunswick. She can be reached at sarah.kester@cbc.ca.

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