Nova Scotia

#BootsForDylan shows outpouring of support for those searching for missing toddler

Started by the Yarmouth Fire Department, the #BootsForDylan initiative is showing support for first responders searching for a missing three-year-old boy in Truro, N.S.

Yarmouth Fire Department wanted to convey 'heartfelt message'

Hundreds of fire departments and community members are taking part in the #BootsForDylan initiative in support of the family of a missing three-year-old and the first responders involved in searching for the boy. (Halifax Fire/Twitter)

Hundreds of fire departments, first responders and community members are posting photos on social media of pairs of boots in support of the family of a missing three-year-old from Truro, N.S., and those involved in the search.

Some community members started posting pictures in Dylan's honour as early as Thursday, but the initiative really took off when the Yarmouth Fire department challenged other departments to post #bootsfordylan on Friday.

Dylan Ehler went missing early Wednesday afternoon and a search began at about 1:20 p.m. The boy had been playing in the yard of his grandmother's house on Queen Street.

Dylan Ehler, 3, was last seen near Queen and Elizabeth Streets. (Town of Truro/Facebook)

The Truro Police Service said teams including Colchester Ground Search and Rescue have been searching since the child's disappearance, but it turned into a recovery operation on Thursday after no new clues were found.

Firefighters found one of Dylan's boots in the water of Lepper Brook, a stream close to the grandmother's home. The other boot was found further down the brook at the mouth of Salmon River.

Bill Mills, the mayor of Truro, said 40 first responders were combing the waterways on Saturday. He said they received maps on currents and tides, and used that information to expand the search area.

"It's a thankless job, it's a tough job, it's hard on them physically and also mentally. I think the support from the community goes a long way," Mills said.

Michael Deveau, acting fire chief of the Yarmouth Fire Department, said the idea came from one of their members, Allan Cosman, who had seen someone else put boots on their doorstep for Dylan. Cosman then posted, challenging other first responders to do the same.

"He decided that this was at least something we could do to show that we were thinking of all those affected," said Deveau.

"It's an unprecedented time and we can't get together like we normally would. Normally we would talk it through as a team and the Yarmouth Fire Department wanted to do something to convey a heartfelt message."

Deveau said the pandemic and tragedies that have occurred in the province over the last few weeks made the department want to send a positive message for people. He said it was positive to see so many people respond on social media.

"The fire services and the emergency services, we're like a family. So we've all stuck together and continued the idea," Deveau said.

He also said he and his members know what it's like to deal with a situation that makes responders feel "pretty horrible."

"I can't imagine how those people feel," Deveau said. "We just wanted to show some level of support and respect for all those involved, because it's got to be a terrible time."

Mills said this has been a trying incident for the people of Truro and he is grateful to see the outpouring of support online.

"It's certainly a great gesture. I think also with Dylan being three years old has a lot to do with it. A handsome little guy and I can see why folks would want to do this. It's sort of a release for a lot of people," he said.

"We can feel the support from people across the country. To say we appreciate it would be a vast understatement."