Firefighters from all across Canada and some from the U.S. met in Ottawa on Sept.8 to participate in 2019 Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation (CFFF) Memorial Ceremony and pay tribute to their fallen comrades.
Estevan Fire Chief Dale Feser, who attended the event as a zone director for the Saskatchewan Association of Fire Chiefs, shared his first-hand experience with the Mercury.
“It was great,” said Feser. “Our organization sent a member, a director every year to attend to show support for this initiative.”
It was the 16th annual memorial ceremony hosted by the CFFF. The ceremony itself took just one day, but there were other activities and events organized around it, so Feser had to be in Ottawa from Sept. 5-9.
“We head out early because we fly out the families (of firefighters) that are going to be recognized that particular year. They typically come in on a Friday, so they are shown around and taken in the capital city as well. There are a few church services and whatnot that are hosted and held for the families, suppers for dignitaries right until the actual ceremony on Sunday,” said Feser, explaining that there is always a lot of background work, too, that they help with such as prepping and raking the grounds, setting up the chairs for the ceremony, cleaning off the memorial and getting the wall ready for the names of deceased firefighters to be unveilled.
This year’s ceremony was even more touching for Saskatchewan as the name of its very own volunteer firefighter Darrell Morrison of Rosetown was added to the memorial wall.
“I was indeed honoured to be in attendance this year, as one of our own Saskatchewan firefighters was recognized and his name was engraved on the wall this year,” said Feser.
Morrison’s daughter Cheyanne, 18, who is the youngest firefighter in Saskatchewan to complete firefighter training successfully, and is following in her late father’s footsteps, was present at the ceremony along with Rosetown Fire Chief Dennis Ogg and Darrell’s parents Dean and Gloria Morrison.
“It was just a blessing to be in attendance to see them presented … Each family is presented with a Canadian Fallen Firefighters helmet as well as a medallion in recognition of their service and the ultimate sacrifice that they paid for the fire service,” said Feser.
Darrell Morrison died on Nov. 21, 2018, while on duty attending the traffic collision.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna delivered the keynote address this year.
Feser said that all together it was an emotional weekend filled with activities. Not only did the ceremony attract hundreds of firefighters from across Canada, but the events also were a big draw for locals. Bagpipe bands from different provinces and cities that were in attendance for the ceremony had performances in the market area for the families and others on Sept. 7.
The CFFF Memorial Ceremony always takes place at the Ottawa Fire Fighters Memorial, which is right across from the National War Memorial not far from the Parliament building.
“Fire departments from right across Canada actually partook and have a part in the memorial itself. There is a 50-foot statue of a firefighter pointing towards the wall. When this all came about during the construction, design phases all fire departments across Canada were requested to send a piece of bronze or brass in to donate. That material was melted down and used in the construction of the Fallen Firefighter. So each firefighter has a piece of ownership or sense of pride in putting this memorial together,” said Feser.
Even though the location is always the same, the hosting role is usually switched between provinces. This year, it was Manitoba fire services’ turn to put the event together. And the Calgary fire department is going to be the host committee for the next year.
It was the second time Feser participated in the ceremony. Last time he was in Ottawa was four years ago, when the Saskatchewan fire services as a whole were a host committee for the CFFF Memorial Ceremony.
Feser explained that each year their firefighters' organization allocates some funds to send their members over to Ottawa.
“Within our organization for the Saskatchewan Association of Fire Chiefs, we try to spread it around and try to see who is available and who would like to attend. And then we set aside budgetary money allotted to pay for the travel expenses and everything else while we are in attendance there,” said Feser.
“I do believe that it’s something that every firefighter should attend at least once. It’s like the Mecca of the fire services. It’s where, if something happens where you should suffer a line of duty death, this is the ultimate way that we can honour their sacrifice and make sure that their memorial live on forever.”