Hundreds of sombre firefighters from across British Columbia marched the streets of Victoria Monday afternoon.
Past the legislature, underneath the extended fire truck ladders, and by supporters lining the streets, uniformed firefighters paraded in unison, memorializing their fallen.
“(My husband) sacrificed his life for everyone. He just loved his job and he didn’t need the recognition, this is over and above,” said Gena Dombrowski, who lost her husband Ernie in 2015. “He was just happy helping people and making sure kids were safe and taken care of.”
A Surrey firefighter suffering from PTSD, Ernie took his own life after 10 years on the job, leaving a wife and a 13-year-old son behind. His was one of 14 names called out in remembrance at the B.C. Fallen Fire Fighters’ Memorial.
“Every day it’s not only fire calls, they are going to motor vehicle accidents and tragedies that we only see on the news and we don’t know what (firefighters) go through,” Dombrowski said. “Especially in my husband’s case, he really took it to heart and had challenges dealing with it.”
Firefighters are also more likely to get cancer, or suffer from heart failure. Mike Rispin of the Nanaimo Professional Firefighters said he drove down the Malahat in support of “the brotherhood,” and all other families affected by the loss of one of their own.
“It doesn’t matter where you are from, anywhere in North America, probably anywhere in the world, a firefighter is a firefighter and you can go to a fire hall anywhere and you will be treated and respected like a brother,” he said. “We are here not only for our own members but for other families and to support them as well.”
Dombrowski received a flag in her husband’s honour and clutched it to her heart following the ceremony.
“(Today is) bittersweet. This is wonderful. I miss my husband. My son doesn’t have a father anymore, but he loved firefighting and they are great men and women,” she said. “We just have to remember to take care of them like they take care of us.”