Two fallen firefighters from Langley will be honoured Monday during a special memorial at the legislative buildings in Victoria.
Aldergrove resident and Surrey career firefighter Ernie Dombrowski died in April 2015.
He and retired Surrey fire captain Randy Piticco, who died in December 2015, will be among 14 firefighters honoured during the BC Professional Fire Fighters Association Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial on March 6.
The event includes a parade of uniformed firefighters marching through the streets of downtown Victoria, from the Black Ball Ferry ramp in the harbour, to the B.C. Parliament Buildings, complete with colour party and honour guard.
Hundreds of firefighters from throughout B.C., as well as dignitaries and families of the fallen, are expected to attend.
Piticco’s widow, Marilyn, as well as her son Matt and daughter Michelle, will be among those in attendance, along with a bus full of Surrey firefighters leaving at 5 a.m. Monday to be at the service. She understands a small contingent of Langley firefighters are also expected to attend.
Marilyn said she wouldn’t miss this memorial service, primarily to pay tribute to her late husband and all the other B.C. firefighters who have died in the line of duty.
“It’s the hardest thing in the world to sit there and have all of that going on, and be so proud and so sad at the same time, and to be so visible to everyone in such a big way. It’s emotionally draining to actually be at it, yet there’s no darn way you wouldn’t be there to see those names on the wall.”
Piticco’s name was added this year, and this will be Marilyn’s first time seeing it. But she did attend a similar, but much larger scale tribute in Colorado Springs last September.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
CAPTION: Two Langley men, who were career firefighters, will be among 14 who fell in the line of duty and are being honoured Monday in a special firefighter memorial in Victoria. One of those firefighters was Walnut Grove’s Randy Piticco, whose service was held at the Bell Performing Arts Centre in Surrey last year.
Piticco was a Walnut Grove resident who died of cancer at 61. His particular form of cancer is one of 10 recognized in the industry as a hazard to firefighters, and consequently – even though Piticco was retired – his passing is classified as a line-of-duty death.
His widow, Marilyn, is also hoping that attending next week’s special service will allow her to connect with other widows (See related story).
But she knows not all can attend. Marilyn described it as a traumatic and emotional event that some people are not yet – and may never – be able to handle.
Fortunately, she said, she has had a chance to get to know Dombrowski’s widow Gena, and their young son Jason, who are also expected to attend.
Dombrowski was 44 when he died suddenly at his property on South Pender Island. He had worked for several years as a corrections officer before becoming a paid-on-call firefighter for the Township of Langley, then moved to being a career firefighter in Surrey.
Relatively new event
This is the fourth biennial tribute. Unveiled in the spring of 2011, the memorial site was granted by the provincial government where it stands tall on the lawns of the British Columbia legislature and serves as a reminder to everyone the value of firefighters, said BCPFFA president Gord Ditchburn.
“The dangers of our profession can be lifelong and at times invisible yet they are the result of risking one’s life for the benefit of others,” he said.
“We have made tremendous progress in attaining presumptive coverage’s and improving on our occupational health and safety practices in recent years, yet we have more to do. We are grateful to the provincial government for their recognition of the dangerous work that we do as firefighters, honouring our fallen, and that more must be done. Without question it is the right thing to do.”
No matter the strides made, Ditchburn said he and other firefighters will never forget their fallen, saying it’s a matter of honouring their past.”
For those unable to attend, the memorial will be livestreamed, the parade commencing at 11:25 a.m., followed by memorial ceremony at noon.
“…we will pay tribute to 14 of our fallen heroes who courageously gave the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty,” Ditchburn concluded. “Without question, they served their respective communities in protecting complete strangers when duty called, and we will pay tribute to them with the highest honour.”
The B.C. fallen firefighters who will be recognized at the 2017 memorial:
• Larry Page, Richmond Local 1286, Fire Fighter, June 1, 1973
• Howard Breden, Richmond Local 1286, Captain, November 20, 1979
• Harry Beetstra, Richmond Local 1286, District Chief, July 25, 1991
• Ken Cook, Trail Local 941, Fire Fighter, March 28 1998
• Merrill Gosling, Richmond Local 1286, Captain, February 21, 2015
• Kevin Hegarty, Surrey Local 1271, Fire Fighter, March 1, 2015
• Ernie Dombrowski, Surrey Local 1271, Fire Fighter, April 20, 2015
• Wayne C. Douglas, Fort St. John Local 2413, Captain, May 21, 2015
• Brian Taillefer, Kamloops Local 913, Captain, August 1, 2015
• William Hunter, Vancouver Local 18, Captain, September 19, 2015
• Randy Piticco, Surrey Local 1271, Captain, December 22, 2015
• Don Baxter, Nanaimo Local 905, Assistant Chief, August 16, 2016
• Dennis TeBoekhorst, Maple Ridge Local 4449, Lieutenant, October 21, 2016
• Harjinder S. Ghuman, Vancouver Local 18, Lieutenant, December 1, 2016