Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Brotherhood

The second Sunday in September has been designated a national memorial day for fallen firefighters in Canada. A ceremony is held on that day at the national memorial near the War Museum. I attended this past Sunday, coming across a long line of firefighters at the Garden of the Provinces and Territories beforehand, to be led to the scene by pipers and drummers from a mix of Canadian fire department marching bands. This has been the third year I attended. I first came for the service in 2016, which is how I met fellow blogger Stewart (aka Furry Gnome). His son William Hilts was being commemorated that year after losing his life as a forest fire bomber pilot in the Cold Lake area in 2015.

The Canadian Firefighters Memorial was unveiled in 2012. It is overseen by the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation in association with the government, and located in the Lebreton Flats area, a place of significance for firefighters. The Great Fire of 1900 was blocked from spreading downtown near this exact spot, and an Ottawa fire captain died in the line of duty nearby in 1896. Artist Douglas Coupland and landscape architect Mary Tremain designed the monument, which has three focal points. An 18 metre fire pole and 6 metre statue of a firefighter stand across from a long granite wall inscribed with the names of all Canadian firefighters who have died in the line of duty. The landscaping features shrubs, flowers, and trees that turn red in fall, a nod to the fire retardants used in forest fire fighting. Brass hose couplings from fire departments across the country were given to the foundries and incorporated into the bronze elements of the memorial.

Two Ottawa fire trucks were parked on the road beyond the memorial, with the Canadian flag suspended between them. The pipers and drummers led the way in, while the marching firefighters took a second path closer to the wall.

The ceremony is done with certain traditions- remarks alternating in English and French by the leadership of the foundation, a host department chosen from across the country (this year it was the department of national defence, which includes firefighting in its duties), and the government. In the past it's been the minister of public safety, under whose jurisdiction the work is done, but this year Prime Minister Trudeau took part. You can see him on the podium in the first shot, as he's the tallest person there, and he was speaking in the second shot.

The ceremony features prayers by fire department chaplains, the ringing of the bell to signify fallen firefighters, the presentation of helmets to family members of firefighters, and the reading of names of those who have died, either doing the job or of workplace related illnesses, since the last occasion. Those names have been added to the wall, which is organized by province and territory.

The Last Post is played, followed by a moment of silence, and then the lament and reveille. Amazing Grace is performed by the pipers and drummers. Click on those links if you'd like to see my videos. 

Then the ceremony concludes with a formal march past by the firefighters. After that things are less formal, people talking at the site, looking for particular names on the wall. I took a couple of chances to go up the bleachers that had been set up to take photographs.

Here we have views of some of the names. The second shot at the lower left features William Hilts.

I paused to photograph the bell and final helmet at the secondary section of the monument. A lone pine has been planted on its top, a deliberate choice, as that type of tree is fire resistant and tends to grow well in the aftermath of fires.

Taking my leave, I stopped by a plaque where the Firefighters Prayer is inscribed in English and French.


  1. My dad was a firefighter. We don't have big ceremonies like this one as far as i know.

  2. ...firefighter go about their work and are often under appreciate.

  3. Um belo memorial são sempre boas todas as homenagens aos bombeiros.
    Um abraço e continuação de uma boa semana.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa
    O prazer dos livros

  4. Hello, the firefighters are so brave. What a great tribute and memorial service. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

  5. A wonderful ceremony and so important!

  6. Great ceremony in recognition of the fallen firefighters. Their brave act deserves appreciation and recognition.

  7. Such a moving ceremony William, firefighters are true heroes ✨

  8. @Stefan: I think it's a wonderful concept. They started it around fifteen years ago as a national ceremony. There's also a city memorial to firefighters at City Hall.

    @Tom: that is true.

    @Francisco: thank you.

    @Eileen: it was a moving ceremony.

    @Marie: most definitely.

    @Jan: indeed.

    @Nancy: I agree.

    @Grace: that's true.

  9. I am so glad that these firefighters are commemorated for their selfless service. I cannot think of anything, other than going to war, that is more difficult service. Thank you for sharing this.

  10. It's a very appropriate ceremony to recognize and remember people who lost their lives in service.

  11. Beautiful ceremony and a wonderful memorial to the firefighters.

  12. What a remarkable ceremony and so well deserved.

  13. Great day to honor the Firefighters-----Thank you guys and gals

  14. @DJan: you're welcome.

    @Red: it certainly is.

    @Beth: I found it moving indeed.

    @Lois: it's well done.

    @Sharon: it was poignant.

    @MB: a fitting time of year too.

  15. I wasn't aware that fallen firefighters were commemmorated in September. A worthwhile remembrance of very brave people I think.

  16. These ceremonies are always so well organized. Last Post and Amazing Grace have the power to move everyone...

  17. A very similar ceremony to the one they hold in Toronto for the Ontario firefighters.

  18. I wish you had included a video--or at least an audio--on this one.

  19. A nice ceremony for all the fallen firefighters. They are so brave in protecting us all, true heroes.

  20. Real heroes ...they should be honored.

  21. @Shammickite: it is.

    @Lady Fi: there were quite a number of them!

    @Catarina: they do indeed.

    @RedPat: that doesn't surprise me.

    @Norma: I've got two videos embedded and highlighted in the text. I prefer to do it that way as opposed to creating a window.

    @Bill: they definitely are.

    @Janey: I agree.

  22. That must be very touching and emotional to watch.
    Love bagpipes

  23. At one time the wildfire season was coming to an end this month and next. Not so anymore. A poignant ceremony.

  24. What a wonderful tribute to fallen Fire Fighters and lovely photos ^_^

    Happy Day to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores

  25. What a beautiful ceremony, a wonderful memorial to the firefighters...

    All the best Jan

  26. This must have been stirring! I don't think I could stand that long. Thanks for the photos.

  27. This has to be a very somber occasion. And anyone who has ever had to call the fire department knows how grateful we are for their service.

  28. Beautiful ceremony. And I see wonderful skies in the background.

  29. @Happyone: it is emotional.

    @Kay: that's true.

    @Carol: thanks!

    @Cloudia: indeed.

    @Jan: it's well done.

    @Jennifer: you're welcome.

    @Jeanie: it was indeed.

    @Klara: that was a pleasant day.