Two local firemen attend tribute for fallen colleagues

FORT FRANCES—Local firefighters Capt. Joe Bobczynski and Greg Allan were among the 2,200 firefighters and emergency workers who attended Wednesday’s memorial tribute in Winnipeg for two fallen colleagues.
The ceremony at the MTS Centre marked the end of a week of public mourning for Winnipeg firefighters Capt. Tom Nichols and Capt. Harold Lessard, who were both killed Feb. 4 after being trapped in a St. Boniface house fire.
“It was sad,” said Capt. Bobczynski, noting this was the third such memorial service for firefighters he’s been to in his career.
He said the service, which was a massive gathering of firefighters and emergency personnel from across Canada and the U.S., was a solemn reminder that the job is a dangerous one, adding it’s fortunate these types of memorial aren’t too common.
“It doesn’t happen that much, thank goodness. But it happens enough,” he remarked. “Just last week, three Ottawa firefighters had to bail out of a third-storey window for pretty much the same kind of thing.
“I talked to some of the Ottawa firefighters [Wednesday] and those three are okay, they’re alive. A couple of them need surgery.
“But it’s the same kind of deal. Nothing’s routine anymore,” he stressed.
Capt. Bobczynski said potentially fatal situations that can occur mean no firefighter can ever become complacent.
“I’ve been doing this 25 years. There’s a couple ‘come closes’ I’ve had, Greg’s had, and Greg and I have had together,” he remarked. “You never really want to think about it, but every time you leave, there’s chance you might not come home.”
Capt. Bobczynski noted the memorial service also showed how difficult it must be to go on after losing someone you’ve worked with every day for years.
“I’ve never had to experience that, and I hope I never do. It’s got to be devastating,” he said. “There was a younger firefighter there who was interviewed who talked about pulling one of the men out.
“He said he had him on the ladder, and he assumed that he’d be talking to him again tomorrow. But that was the last time he saw him.”
Capt. Bobczynski said he’d been to a memorial service several years ago for a Barrie firefighter who had died in the line of duty, and then again last year after the death of his good friend Joe Adamkowski, a Thunder Bay firefighter who succumbed to cancer.
“That was a WSIB-recognized cancer days before he died. He fought to get that. It was a different kind of line of duty death,” he conceded.
He added the hazardous and sometimes toxic environments firefighters have to work in pose a danger of their own, and firefighters are more than ever keenly aware of taking precautions.
“It was pretty tough losing him,” concluded Capt. Bobczynski. “I was laughing with Greg the other day as we were going to Winnipeg that I still have Joe Adamkowski’s number in my cell phone.
“I don’t know. I’ll take it out someday.”
(Fort Frances Daily Bulletin)