International Firefighters Day on May 4 is a day to remember those in the service who have lost their lives, Jason Giesbrecht Chief of Port Edward Fire Department said.
“It’s a day to thank them for their service and it’s a day to appreciate firefighters that are still serving as well,” he said.
Geisbrecht is incredibly proud of the crew in Port Edward. They are all volunteers who give freely of their time and six out of the 11 firefighters are female, he said, making his team one that is balanced and diverse.
International Fire Firefighters day was initiated by a female firefighter for May 4, after she sent a global email to departments across the world campaigning for the day of remembrance because of five firefighters who lost their lives battling a 1999 wildfire in Victoria, Australia. As the team headed out away from the fire to refill the tanker, the wind changed engulfing the truck in flames. The fellow firefighter from another detachment reached out across the world to other departments to join in solidarity.
The date was chosen for its link to St. Florian who is the patron saint of all firefighters. He was the first Roman Empire commander of a firefighting squad. In Europe, May 4th is known as a ‘Day of Fire Service’ as well as St. Florian’s Day. St. Florian’s Day has been a tradition for more than 150 years.
Geisbrecht said he had the honour and privilege a few years ago to attend the Colorado Springs Fallen Fighters Memorial. The names of more than 8,100 firefighters who have died in fires or from chronic illnesses related to their work since 1918, are etched into the memorial walls.
Thousands attend an annual remembrance ceremony with numbers growing every year.
”It’s just walls and walls of firefighters’ names. It’s a very humbling experience,” Geisbrecht said. “What is especially heartrending is how many walls are still there empty and just waiting for names,”.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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