Column: The risk firefighters face working on our behalf

Across Canada, firefighters risk their lives to keep our homes and our communities safe.

Across Canada, firefighters risk their lives to keep our homes and our communities safe. But on Wednesday of last week, a catastrophic house fire on Iverson Road in the Lindell Beach area struck close to home and, tragically, firefighter Brian Smyth with the Columbia Valley Volunteer Fire Department suffered a cardiac arrest while trying to fight the blaze. Last weekend, he passed away.

Smyth, just 57 years old, sought medical attention and was treated on the scene. He was transported to Royal Columbian Hospital shortly afterwards and was on life support for two days before passing away peacefully in the presence of family and friends. Yet, still, he reached out to others in death, donating his organs to save lives.

Those who fight fires are precious heroes and British Columbia is blessed to have over 3,900 firefighters. Having experienced the horror of a house fire firsthand, I know how competent and efficient these skilled people are. They rush toward danger when others are scrambling to try to find a way out. They are there at the critical moment when rescue, help, and support are needed the most and they have the words of comfort and focus to help those in panic and distress.

Fighting fires is stressful, dangerous work and the heat, the urgency and the speed at which they must work play heavily on their own physical and mental health. Last year the provincial government recognized the degree to which men and women put their health at risk.

Last May, Bill 17 amended the Workers Compensation Act to recognize that if a firefighter suffers from heart disease or heart injury and was employed as a firefighter at or immediately before the date of disablement, it is to be assumed the heart condition is due to their work as a firefighter unless proven otherwise.

“Our government appreciates the important work that firefighters do for the people of our province,” said Shirley Bond at the time, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour. “Firefighters expose themselves to significant hazards and we want to provide further protection for these men and women who help to keep our communities safe by recognizing heart disease and heart injury as presumptive diseases.”

Michael Hurley, President of the BC Professional Firefighters Association, expressed appreciation when Bill 17 received Royal Assent. “Firefighters are exposed to a real toxic combination through their work on a daily basis. This, along with the heat and mental stressors faced by the profession, means that heart injuries due to the nature of the job are a reality for firefighters. We have always known that, when we go to work, our health is at risk.”

Earlier this week the British Columbia Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial was held in Victoria at which 12 names of firefighters who had paid the ultimate sacrifice were recognized, including Smyth. Bells tolled for each lost hero. Hundreds converged on the capital to remember them.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Smyth’s family, the Columbia Valley Volunteer Fire Department, and the community,” said FVRD Board Chair Sharon Gaetz. “We are deeply saddened.”

“I know that Brian was well loved by his fellow firefighters and a respected, longtime resident of the community,” said Taryn Dixon, Electoral Area H Director. “His presence will be greatly missed.”

A full Line of Duty funeral is planned. The funeral will be held at the Chilliwack Alliance Church, 8700 Young Road, on Friday March 20. The formal procession will begin at 11 a.m. and information on the procession route will be posted on the Fraser Valley Regional District’s website once it is finalized.

Farewell Brian. And thank you.

Just Posted

Rohan arul-Pragasam, Chilliwack School District’s interim superintendent, has been appointed superintendent of schools effective June 15, 2021. (Chilliwack School District)
Interim position becomes permanent for Rohan Arul-pragasam at Chilliwack School District

Arul-pragasam said he was ‘humbled to continue as a steward’ in new role as superintendent of schools

PlanCultus was adopted in 2017 as a guiding document for Cultus Lake Park. (Cultus Lake Park Board)
More affordable housing options could be coming to Cultus Lake Park

Online survey opened on June 14 to gauge opinion on plaza redevelopment eyed for Village Centre

The Abbotsford International Airshow is back for 2021 with the ‘SkyDrive’ concept.
Abbotsford International Airshow returns for 2021 with ‘SkyDrive’

New format features a drive-in movie type experience, show set for Aug. 6 to 8

A young couple walks through the Othello Tunnels just outside of Hope. (Jessica Peters/Black Press)
Hope’s Othello Tunnels fully open to the public

Geological testing proved the area safe enough to open for the first time in more than a year

Raeya Evie Duncan was the 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital for the month of May. She is seen here with her parents Alysha Williams and Andrew Duncan on June 12, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Baby boom in Chilliwack as record number of infants born at CGH in May

‘COVID babies are coming out,’ says dad of 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital last month

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read