First responders gather to pay tribute to fallen Truro firefighter Skyler Blackie
The 28-year-old died after a tragic training incident earlier this month
About two thousand people gathered Saturday to honour Skyler Blackie, the Truro firefighter who died following an incident during training.
The 28-year-old was remembered at a morning service at the Colchester Legion Stadium in Truro.
Blackie, who lived in Debert, N.S., died in hospital 11 days after suffering a head injury during routine training at the Nova Scotia Firefighters School in Waverley on March 9. Little is known about the incident except that it involved a fire extinguisher.
Blackie is survived by his wife, Erin, his parents and a brother and sister, according to his obituary.
Hundreds of people lined the streets in Truro as a fire engine carrying Blackie's body drove past.
An aerial ladder was placed above the centre of the street as the procession passed by, a large Canadian flag slowly billowing from it in the breeze.
A pipe band led the Town of Truro fire truck, which was draped in black cloth, and men and women in uniform followed on foot.
Stephen Sweet, the pipe major for the Greater Boston Firefighters Pipes and Drums, travelled with six others for the funeral.
"He's one of us. It doesn't matter what the patch is, where you're from. It's the same job everywhere, and we support our own," he said.
"This is why the band exists … to show the respect that they deserve and showing the families and the departments that we won't forget — ever."
During the service, several of Blackie's firefighting comrades and friends offered their remembrances and condolences.
Dave Burry, the regional vice-president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said Blackie was quick to smile, easy to befriend and deeply proud of being a firefighter.
"Despite the hazards and the uncertainties of his chosen profession, he did his job without hesitation. Whenever you, the public, would call for assistance, he was always there," Burry said.
"Skyler, my friend, my brother, rest in peace. We will take it from here."
Blackie's friend and coworker, Logan Daly, said he and Blackie recently auditioned for the TV show Amazing Race Canada.
In their audition video, Blackie said he looked up to Daly.
Daly said recently he's been thinking about that moment.
"I realized it should have been me saying that," he said. "I looked up to him. He was my role model. I need to be more like Skyler."
Another close friend and firefighter, Craig Matthews, said he and Blackie had a lot in common, including that they loved their jobs, beer, the Blue Jays and yelling out "Hydrant!" from the fire truck.
"I wanted to talk about how handsome Duke was," Matthews said, prompting chuckles from the crowd. "Actually, it kind of pissed me off.… Everyone knew it, even my kids knew it — he had bigger muscles than me."
But Matthews grew serious.
"Firefighters show up at everyone's worst day," he said. "We're going to try our best to help you or die trying. That's the way I'm going to remember my friend Skyler, my brother Duke. So others may live."
Blackie's brother, Errison Blackie, also a firefighter, recounted stories of their childhood together — including the time they went rollerblading down a steep hill and Errison fell, losing consciousness in the process. Skyler dropped to his knees to stop, scraping them badly, threw Errison over his shoulders and took him to the nearest house.
"That was Skyler. Skyler had my back. He was my protector, every single day," Errison said.
Errison said as boys, the two brothers would frequently have "sleepovers" in Skyler's room, talking late into the night about their dreams of both becoming firefighters and working at the same firehouse — which they did. Errison said he often wet the bed as a young boy, including Skyler's bed during their sleepovers.
"Skyler never once got mad at me, he never once made fun of me," Errison told the crowd. Rather, Skyler would send him to his room to get changed, change his sheets and tuck Errison back into bed.
"That was Skyler."
Errison said he's been asked in recent days why he isn't crying more, or why he isn't sad.
"Here's my answer: There's simply no room for sadness in me today or for the rest of my life," he said, "because I'm filled with too much pride for my brother. And I will spend the rest of my days celebrating his life."
With files from Allison Devereaux