Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad  Print this page

NNSL Photo/graphic

Mayor Gord Van Tighem addresses the audience during the firefighter memorial at St. Patrick high school gym, March 17, for fallen firefighters Kevin Olson and Cyril Fyfe. - Chris Woodall/NNSL photo

'Our family chain is broken'

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 20/06) - A year has passed, but the families of dead firefighters Cyril Fyfe and Kevin Olson say they still find it hard to believe their loved ones are no longer here.

They came with hundreds of others to pay tribute Friday to the two men who lost their lives fighting a shed fire at the Home Building Centre, March 17, 2005.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Family of firefighter Kevin Olson, from left, sisters Christina Olson, Teri Howatt, and brother-in-law Rick Koy speak of their memories during the March 17 service in St. Patrick high school gym for Olson and Cyril Fyfe. A portrait of Kevin Olson is in the background. The service was exactly one year and seven hours from the time of the tragedy. - Chris Woodall/NNSL photo

At the one-year anniversary ceremony, Yellowknife firefighters joined their brothers and sisters from the Calgary Fire Department - Olson's hometown and where his brother-in-law Rick Koy works - to ring out the last duty call for the two men.

Fyfe at 41, was a seasoned veteran. Olson, a 24-year-old rookie, was anxious to start his new career.

"Just about every kid dreams of being a fireman," Pastor Shawn MacLellan told the crowd gathered at the St. Patrick high school gym.

"Every day they lay down their lives for their family and friends and their community - even for strangers they don't know."

For the Fyfe and Olson families, Friday's anniversary was another day to shed tears, but also to share a few jokes: Cyril's love for fishing, and Kevin's undying allegiance to his beloved Calgary Flames.

"It seems like yesterday I was in the kitchen putting dinner in the oven," said Fyfe's wife, Andrea Loomis.

"Cyril would come in and say, 'smells good, is it ready yet?'"

"'Well, the smoke alarm hasn't gone off yet,'" she quipped back.

The dinner table talk invariably turned to fishing, she said, and who had the biggest catch.

Daughter Jolene Fyfe read out a letter from the man who received Cyril's heart.

The man was in critical condition in hospital, and desperate for a new heart at the time of Fyfe's death.

His organ donation proved to be the 18-year veteran's last, but greatest gift.

"Every day I'm thankful when I feel this new heart beating in my chest," read Jolene.

"It's a precious gift I hold dear."

Christina Olson, one of Kevin's two older sisters, said she still wakes up, thinking last year's horror had all been just a terrible dream, but then the reality quickly sets back in.

Olson, accompanied by her soon-to-be husband Rick Koy and sister Teri Howatt, spent the early morning reliving the last half-hour of her brother's life out at the Home Building Centre.

"I sure do miss the smile and hugs," she said.

Howatt, who said her three-year-old son Logan idolizes his uncle, told the audience her family was proud despite their heartache. She read a statement from her parents who stayed behind in Calgary: "Our family chain is broken, and nothing seems the same. As God calls us one by one, the chain will link again."

Craig Halifax, president of Yellowknife's fire hall union, said Fyfe was his mentor, and in Olson he saw a young man much like himself when he first started with the department.

He finished his speech saying the firefighters have had it rough over the last year, but were determined to soldier on.

"Last year, we were knocked down harder than ever before, but we got back up will continue to do so," said Halifax.