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

Furor over Japanese flag in Langley classroom

Secondary school students petition demanding removal has collected more than 5,700 signatures

Everett pulls ahead in Western Conference standings over Vancouver Giants

Langley-based hockey G-Men, who lost 6-5 to Everett Saturday, now prepares to take on Victoria.

Langley Thunder lacrosse teams pocket gold and silver in Richmond

Top finishes for U15 and U13-1 teams at Richmond Romp over the Remembrance Day weekend

Langley Rams downed by Saskatoon Hilltops at Canadian Bowl

Four-time Canadian Junior Football League champions built up an insurmountable lead

VIDEO: Crash on 88 Avenue in Langley

At least one car suffered extensive damage

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Vancouver Police look for man in connection to ‘sexually motivated’ assault

Woman says man followed her into an apartment building

NEB approves operating pressure increase to repaired Enbridge pipeline

The pipeline burst outside of Prince George on Oct. 9, now operating at 85 per cent

B.C. VIEWS: Setting speed limits in a post-fact environment

Media prefer ‘speed kills’ narrative, even when it fails to appear

Death toll rises to 76 in California fire with winds ahead

Nearly 1,300 people remain unaccounted for more than a week after the fire began

Trump says report on Khashoggi death expected in a few days

Jamal Khashoggi was a columnist for The Washington Post who was slain Oct. 2 inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul

CUPW requests mediator as deadline for Canada Post offer expires without deal

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in Saturday night with a last-minute plea to the two sides

Trudeau says he won’t negotiate in public on future of LGBTQ rights in USMCA

Legislators urged Trump not to sign the agreement unless the language was removed.

Most Read