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Yellowknife mourns 2nd fireman's death

Brent Reaney
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 23/05) - Yellowknife's fire department lost a leader when Lieutenant Cyril Fyfe died in hospital Monday afternoon.

Fyfe, 41, was one of two firefighters trying to contain a fire in a building supply company's shed when the roof collapsed on them the morning of March 17.

Firefighter Lieut. Cyril Fyfe was a proud member of Yellowknife's fire department, serving for two years as a volunteer before adding 16 years as a professional. He and rookie firefighter Kevin Olson died on duty March 17. - NNSL file photo

After five days on life support, Fyfe succumbed to his injuries.

Firefighter Kevin Olson, 24, died shortly after the roof fell. Both firefighters are believed to be the first to be killed in the line of duty in the territory's history.

Salute at airport

Fyfe's body was flown to Edmonton shortly after he died.

During the plane's takeoff, Lieut. Chucker Dewar said the city's emergency vehicles lined the runway as members of the city's emergency services stood and saluted.

Dewar has known Fyfe, who moved to Yellowknife in 1967, since the two went to elementary school together in the early 1970s.

Dressed in his formal firefighter uniform, Dewar spoke to reporters, at times on the verge of tears, about his friend. "Of course, the toughest part is dealing with the loss."

Like father, like children

By all accounts, Fyfe loved to fish - a hobby which some of his five children have picked up. Always seeming to know where the fish were, Dewar says to find the fish, you had to be with Fyfe.

"That was part of the deal," Dewar says.

And though Fyfe went moose hunting every year, Dewar says it was a well-known joke that "he never came back with a moose," except on one occasion.

Yesterday, Fyfe's grieving family members were not ready to speak to Yellowknife through the media. One person started talking but then began crying, saying "this is not a good time," and hung up the phone.

Aside from fishing, more than one person said Fyfe was passionate about his children.

"He's a wonderful father, and if you ever had the opportunity to meet his children you'd fall in love with them immediately," Fire Chief Mick Beauchamp said, March 18, while Fyfe was being treated at Stanton Territorial Hospital.

After joining the department in 1987, Fyfe spent two years as a volunteer before becoming a full-time firefighter. According to the department's website he became a lieutenant in 2002.

Even when he was not working, "you could always find him (at the station)," Dewar said.

As a leader on the force and respected lieutenant, staff would often go to Fyfe with procedural questions. "He always had an answer for you," Dewar says.

Excellent sense of humour

Possessing an excellent sense of humour, if Fyfe made someone the target of a practical joke, Dewar says "you were toast."

Ron Scherman is one of about six former Yellowknife firefighters who have flown up to help support the crew during the grieving process.

Currently working for the Calgary fire department, Scherman spent 12 years in Yellowknife. "I know all the guys involved, and they need all the help they can get," Scherman said in the fire hall Tuesday.

Many more firefighters who have worked with Fyfe were expected to fly in over the next few days.

This weekend's national firefighters curling tournament is expected to go ahead.

Funeral services for Fyfe and a memorial service for both men are still being planned. Dates will be posted to www.city.yellowknife.nt.ca.

People wishing to express sympathy to the firefighters' family members or the department can e-mail condolences@yellowknife.ca.

Western Arctic MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew added her condolences, Tuesday, to the stricken families.

"This terrible incident is a reminder of the sacrifice and bravery of the men and women who serve as firefighters," Blondin-Andrew said in a prepared statement. "These men served our community with commitment and pride."

The RCMP, the Workers' Compensation Board, and the fire marshall's office are still investigating the fire.