On 8 September 2019 firefighters from across Canada assembled at the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation Memorial in Ottawa to honour their fallen. Even though it is an annual occurrence and I have attended several over the years, the impact of the beautiful ceremony never diminishes.
The memorial site consists of an expansive 105’ granite wall etched with the names of those who have died in the line of duty since 1848. There are over 1,400 names etched on the wall. The site was completed for the 2012 ceremony. Previously the ceremony was held on Parliament Hill. In the centre of the site is an impressive bronze statue of a firefighter, solemnly pointing to the etched names on the memorial wall. Although situated adjacent to a busy parkway, the site is surprisingly serene and peaceful.
The ceremony was the result of hundreds of hours of work from a dedicated cadre of volunteers from across Canada. There are numerous committees and groups that begin preparations for the next event shortly after the conclusion of the ceremony. These include members of the National Defence Fire Service (NDFS), DND audio-visual section (DIMEUS 5-5), and firefighters from across Canada. The honorary host for the 2019 ceremony was the Manitoba Fire Service. The NDFS hosted it the previous year.
The focus of each year’s ceremony is the presentation of a black helmet (yellow for wildland firefighters) and a medal to the families of the fallen firefighters, i.e. those that have died in the line of duty or from a work-related illness. The families are brought to Ottawa courtesy of the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation. The Head Dress Party is consists of firefighters from different fire departments from across Canada. WO Robert House, Chief Fire Inspector for Real Property Operations Central did the honours for the NDFS this year. There is a private period of reflection afforded the families before the ceremony at the memorial wall. Throughout the weekend there are numerous social and commemorative events and the downtown core is teaming with firefighting shirts and uniforms.
The 2020 Memorial Ceremony will take place on Sunday, September 13th at 1030 hrs with the Calgary Fire Department hosting the event. All are welcome to attend. Please visit the website:
CWO Donnie Matthews
Office of the Canadian Forces Fire Marshal