Langley's Randy Piticco

Hundreds expected to mourn fallen Surrey firefighter and Langley resident

A full honour guard service is being held for Randy Piticco on Sunday, Jan. 24 at the Bell Centre in Surrey.

A rusty old, discarded fire truck that – as a child – he found buried in mud in a farmer’s field in north Surrey, will now ceremoniously carry Randy Piticco to his final resting place later this month.

In a full honours funeral service, the 61-year-old retired Surrey fire captain will be laid to rest on Sunday, Jan. 24, with a celebration of life being held at Surrey’s Bell Centre, starting at about 3 p.m.

Piticco was a Walnut Grove resident who garnered some media attention last fall, in part due to a series of kind gestures by some of his former colleagues, his friends and family, and even many complete strangers to show their thanks for all he’s done – both professionally and personally.

Piticco died Dec. 22, after being unwell for more than a year. CT scans discovered cancerous growths on his spine, as well as in his bones and lungs in July.

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, explained Mike McNamara, president of the Surrey Firefighters Association and a long-time friend and coworker.

One of McNamara’s favourite stories about Piticco involved the recovery of that old fire truck, a 1919 LaFrance, which the Piticcos (Randy and his father Lido – also a Surrey firefighter in his day) convinced that farmer to donate to the firehall all those years ago.

That truck was restored in the 1990s, and is now used in parades and other public events. It will bring Piticco into the Bell Centre for the service.

“He’s going to get one last ride in a fire truck, on the LaFrance,” McNamara said with a smile.

Upwards of 900 people are expected to attend Piticco’s service, which starts promptly at 4 p.m. But family arrives about 3:15, and there will be a ceremonial firefighters march with an honour guard including pipes and drums, before the official service.

“It’s quite a respectful thing to witness,” McNamara said, recommending people be in place by 3 p.m.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW PHOTO

There are more than 400 people in the Surrey fire department alone, including dispatch and inspectors, most who are expected to attend, McNamara said.

Plus, there are also firefighters and friends coming from throughout the region, as well as some from Toronto, who met Piticco when he and his wife were granted a life-long wish and flown back east in late October to attend Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

He described Piticco as a funny, compassionate, and “overall great guy.”

“Randy was one of those guys who was really health conscious,” McNamara added, noting he never smoked.

But exposure to various toxins and smoke through years of service put Piticco and others in harm’s way.

“It’s the risks of our job,” McNamara said, noting he’s actually known Piticco since their fathers worked together as firefighters, decades ago.

Firefighters lobbied the government for years to have several cancers recognized as a direct result of their jobs. In past, McNamara said, the burden of proof laid with each firefighter on a case-by-case basis.

It is “significant” to have it recognized, McNamara said. “It doesn’t do anything to prevent, but helps with health care costs and death benefits for families left behind.”

Now that some of the inherent risks have been identified in their workplace environment, McNamara noted that Piticco and others locally have kept up the battle, more recently lobbying for some of the harm reduction equipment that has been introduced over the years. As well, in Piticco’s stead, they’ll keep pushing for mandatory early screening for firefighters.

“Early detection is more effective and efficient to treating cancer,” he said, wishing his friend’s cancer could have been detected, treated, and cured. “We need to be tested at an earlier age.”

Piticco started as a frontline firefighter in his 20s, and moved up to lieutenant, before retiring as a captain.

He was on the job for 32.5 years. He retired in 2009. His wife Marilyn previously told the Langley Advance that he retired because he was healthy and he wanted to spend some quality time – while he was still young enough to enjoy it – with his family.

“He was such a strong advocate for firefighters,” McNamara said. “Randy was an absolute pleasure to work with… He laughed every day… He cared about everyone… he was such a positive guy. To lose him at 61… it’s tragic.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made online to the Surrey firefighters in Randy Piticco’s name, or directly to the Langley Community Support Group – a stroke recovery organization in Walnut Grove started and operated by his wife, Marilyn.

Randy Piticco made headlines this past fall, when dozens of people came out to sing an impromptu Happy Birthday to the Walnut Grove man who was battling lung cancer. Then, in late October, several people came together to send Randy and his wife Marilyn to a Blue Jays game in Toronto. He passed in December, and a service is planned for the retired fire captain on Jan. 24, at the Bell Centre in Surrey.

Photos below taken by Meaghan Gipps

 

 

Just Posted

VIDEO – UPDATED: Cloverdale’s cancer fundraising country concert surpasses the mark

Organizers confirmed Sunday night that Gone Country - Here for the Cure raised more than $651,000.

Langley, Nelson, Abbotsford riders takes top spots in horse vaulting at BC Games

This weekend, athletes took to the Cowichan to deliver their best poses on horseback

2018 Aldergrove Fair photo gallery

Good times from pony rides and petting zoo to free MainStage concerts

Letter: Save the little forested area in Murrayville

A Langley letter writer is concerned development will mean the loss of greenspace.

54-40 thrills Aldergrove Fair crowd: VIDEO

54-40 were joined on stage by the band members’ dancing children, the “Aldergrove Rockettes”

BC Games: Day 3 wrap and closing ceremonies

The torch in the Cowichan Valley has been extinguished as Fort St. John gets ready to host the 2020 BC Winter Games

Police confirm girl, 8 others injured in Toronto shooting; shooter dead

Paramedics said many of the victims in Danforth, including a child, were rushed to trauma centres

Why do they do it? Coaches guide kids to wins, personal bests at the BC Games

Behind the 2,300 B.C. athletes are the 450 coaches who dedicate time to help train, compete

Gold medallists at BC Games only trained together for 1 day

Ryan Goudron, Nathan Chan, Owen Pinto and Praise Aniamaka from Zone 4 - Fraser River ran together for the first time

Five taken to hospital after one of two Coquihalla accidents

One airlifted in critical condition, four taken via ambulance in stable condition

Government sets full-time salary range for Justin Trudeau’s nanny

At its top range, the order works out to a rate of $21.79 per hour, assuming a 40-hour work week

Lower Mainland teams battle for baseball gold at BC Games

Vancouver Coastal squeaked out a 3-2 win against Fraser Valley

Canada to resettle dozens of White Helmets and their families from Syria

There are fears the volunteers would become a target for government troops

Francesco Molinari wins British Open at Carnoustie

It is his first win at a major and the first by an Italian

Most Read