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All speakers recognized how this year’s event is different from years past, but the message persists.
“We will not be feeling these granite walls the same as we have in the past but the purpose is still the same: We gather to honour our brave firefighters who gave their lives in the line of duty to serve Calgarians,” said McIntyre, executive vice-president of the Calgary Firefighters Association 255. “When we lose a brother or sister in the line of duty, we must reflect on how we do our job so everyone goes home at the end of the shift.”
McIntyre added every second matters when responding to a call as new building materials and home products “burn faster and hotter,” and a minute could mean the difference between life and death for a heart attack patient.
“But your firefighters are not only at risk of injury when responding to the call,” he said. “Cancer and mental health is threatening our well-being in alarming numbers and it’s devastating. Sixty per cent of firefighter line of duty deaths are cancer. The connection between firefighting and cancer is real.”
He said 85 per cent of first responders report symptoms of mental-health issues and the number continues to increase. “These are issues we can and need to address.”
Nenshi recognized the emotional, physical and psychological toll firefighting has, not only on the members but on their families.
“We are served by the very best firefighters in the world . . . That takes a toll on every firefighter and it certainly takes a toll on every firefighting family,” Nenshi said. “Today, of course, we honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those that passed away due to the hazards they face protecting a city and people that they love. We honour, as well, the families.
“There can be a lot of sleepless nights, there can be a lot of worry and of the families that are with us today, there can be the ultimate sorrow. But we also remember that every single one of these people put our safety over their own safety, and we mourn that and we are sad for that but, ultimately, we are also deeply, deeply thankful.”
There are currently more than 1,400 firefighters in Calgary. Of the fallen 54 honoured at Tuesday’s memorial, nine died in active duty and the remaining 45 from firefighting-related illnesses.