A ceremony was held in downtown Saskatoon Tuesday to honour two Saskatoon firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Victor Budz, 46, and Dennis Guenter, 29, died in a fire at the Queen’s Hotel in 1980.
Lieutenant Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield and Mayor Don Atchison helped unveil an honourary plaque on the north wall of the Scotiabank Theatre off 20th Street East, where the hotel once stood.
In remarks made at the beginning of the ceremony, Saskatoon Fire Department Lieutenant Jim Brayshaw painted a picture of the scene 36 years ago, when the Queen’s Hotel still occupied the site. According to incident reports kept on file in the department archives, the call to a fire in the basement of the hotel wasn’t seen as especially unique or dangerous.
The blaze started due to a faulty sauna unit installed in a gym. Guenter and Budz were two members of a four-man crew which arrived on fire engine number 11.
Brayshaw said the reports show everything was going by-the-book when Guenter and Budz went into the building. Ultimately, the pair couldn’t get out of the dark, smoky basement filled with gym equipment. They were overcome by the smoke and ran out of air.
Brayshaw said that at the time, firefighters on the scene dropped everything and began a frantic effort to rescue their comrades. They were able to pull the two men out, but efforts to revive them failed. Budz and Guenter died at the scene.
Victor Budz’s nephew, Wayne Budz, was among those who came to the ceremony. He currently serves as a lieutenant in the Saskatoon Fire Department. He said his family appreciates everything that’s been done to commemorate his uncle, who inspired him to become a firefighter.
“He was a very talented individual. He was an accomplished musician. A very good craftsman. Carpentry skills and he loved to work on old cars. He was a very popular person,” he said.
Fire Chief Morgan Hackl said he hoped the current generation of firefighters got something out of Tuesday’s event. Budz and Guenter are two of three firefigthers ever to die on duty in the city’s history.
“It’s important for our firefighters here today, that are current firefighters, to talk with the retired firefighters that were on scene that day. That were part of searching for their brothers that day,” he said.