Firefighters will line a procession route from Courtenay to the Alberni Valley today to honour a Sproat Lake lieutenant who died of a heart attack after arriving to tackle a large barn fire.
The barn, filled with thousands of bales of hay, was fully engulfed by flames when fire crews arrived about 7 p.m. on July 16.
Lt. Ron Suits, 69, had just arrived and had begun to pump water from a tanker to the fire engine that crews were using to douse the flames when he suffered a heart attack, according to Sproat Lake Fire Chief Mike Cann.
Suits is survived by his wife, Leanne, and two children: Tyler, 21, a paramedic, and Rebecca, 19, a university student.
Cann, Leanne and Rebecca Suits, and several members of the fire department will ride in a fire engine truck to pick up Suits’ ashes today in Courtenay and return with them to Sproat Lake. They plan to take the Oceanside route on Highway 19A through Union Bay, Fanny Bay, Dashwood, Parksville, Errington, Coombs and Hilliers, ending at the Sproat Lake fire hall.
Firefighters from departments big and small, from Langford to Campbell River, are expected to line the route.
“It’s a huge respect thing knowing we’re not alone,” Cann said.
The procession is scheduled to leave the Courtenay crematorium at 3:15 p.m. and is expected to arrive in the Alberni Valley between 5:30 and 6 p.m., he said.
Suits was an experienced firefighter who spent 27 years working for the Calgary Fire Department and was a board member of the Dashwood Volunteer Fire Department before joining the Sproat Lake department more than four years ago as a volunteer.
Cann said Suits was dedicated to his work and protecting others, describing him as “selfless.”
“I don’t know if it takes a special breed to get up from dinner to run off to help people, you know what I mean, and then not return home,” he said.
— With a file from Roxanne Egan-Elliott