B.C. firefighters honour fallen colleague Zak Muise at memorial and on frontline
Health & Safety british columbia firefighters wildfires
By Dirk Meissner
Firefighters on British Columbia’s northern wildfire frontline wore black bandanas Wednesday while others carrying helmets and axes marched in Penticton during a memorial procession to honour colleague Zak Muise.
Muise, 25, died late last month fighting the massive Donnie Creek wildfire in B.C.’s northeast.
First responders, including municipal and forest firefighters, police, paramedics and others formed a procession at the Okanagan city’s Skaha Lake Park, followed by an outdoor public memorial for Muise, who grew up in Ontario and was the youngest of six siblings.
Andrew Bird, training officer at the Penticton Fire Department, took part in the honour guard.
Bird said Muise’s parents marched in the procession and were presented with a folded Canadian flag.
“We’re all here looking out for each other. It was an honour to be there for him and Zak’s family,” Bird said.
Bird said firefighters from California, Washington state and across the Okanagan took part in the march. He said Muise’s firefighting gear was carried during the procession.
Muise is the fourth firefighter to die in recent weeks during what is on track to be Canada’s worst forest fire season on record.
The Muise family said the outpouring of support and the memorial have meant a lot as they grieve their loss.
“We are devastated by the sudden and tragic loss of our son, brother and friend,” Muise’s sister Allison Tackaberry said. “Zak loved life and loved what he was doing. He will be missed by all who knew him.”
A celebration of life for Muise will be held Aug. 20 in Simcoe, Ont.
“We are so grateful for the time we had with him,” the family said in an obituary. “We are so grateful for all first responders. Our hearts go out to all the families of fallen firefighters, first responders and those left who are still fighting.”
Those wanting to make an expression of sympathy can consider a donation to the Canadian Critical Incident Stress Foundation, which provides organizational and family support, education and training for first responders, veterans and their families coping with loss, the family said.
“Rest easy brother,” Big Cat Wildfire, the B.C. company Muise worked for as a wildland firefighter, posted on social media.
RCMP said Muise, from Waterford, Ont., died on July 28 when his heavy-duty ATV rolled over a steep drop on a gravel road in a remote area about 150 kilometres north of Fort St. John.
Last month, 19-year-old Devyn Gale died fighting a wildfire near her home in Revelstoke, B.C.; Adam Yeadon, 25, died fighting a wildfire near his Fort Liard, N.W.T. home; and Alberta resident Ryan Gould, 41, died near Haig Lake, 140 kilometres northeast of Peace River, Alta., when his helicopter crashed while fighting another fire.
B.C. Premier David Eby said in a statement following Muise’s death: “I am devastated to learn that we have lost another wildfire fighter. My heart goes out to the family, friends and colleagues of this front-line hero. On behalf of all British Columbians, we grieve this terrible news with you.”