Firefighters lined Highway 4 in Rosetown as far as the eye could see Tuesday afternoon, as they marched in a procession to pay their respects to fallen volunteer firefighter Darrell Morrison.
The 46-year-old was killed last week on that same highway, a few kilometres north of town while assisting at a crash between two transport trucks on a foggy morning.
A third semi, passing by the scene, struck Morrison and killed him.
Bagpipes sounded as Morrison’s helmet was carried by a fire chief near the head of the full honours parade, followed by representatives from more than 20 fire departments from across Saskatchewan and Alberta.
The procession ended at Rosetown’s civic centre, where a private funeral ceremony was held.
There are well over 100 firefighters in Rosetown today to say goodbye to Darrell Morrison, who died on the job last week. Vehicles from as far north as La Ronge, as far south as Estevan. #sask pic.twitter.com/L9ZPLRudGM
— Chris Vandenbreekel (@Vandecision) November 27, 2018
“They’ve become family,” said Don Willner, assistant fire chief in Davidson, Sask. “We want to be here to support a community that has had so much tough stuff to deal with in the past year.”
Morrison’s death was the second major incident on the highway around Rosetown in the past six months.
In June, five members of the Gasper family and a Swift Current woman were killed in a head-on collision on Highway 4 south of the Rosetown.
Willner said his firefighters have done training exercises with the volunteer crews in Rosetown, and the news of Morrison’s death was hard to swallow.
“You start thinking of all the guys you’ve met in training, all the guys you’ve met throughout the years in the service,” he said. “It’s like losing a family member. Your heart just sinks.”
‘Always in the back of your mind’
The tragedy is sparking a discussion in Saskatchewan about the safety of firefighters at emergency scenes like highway collisions.
Jason Everett, vice-president of the Saskatchewan Association of Fire Chiefs, told Saskatchewan Afternoon on Monday crash sites were more dangerous for firefighters than burning buildings.
“In a burning building, you’re in control,” he said. “If there’s need for a rescue… it’s all planned and it’s something we train for. Accident scenes? They change.”
The veteran firefighter said the situation is different at each crash, with road conditions, weather and traffic volume acting as major variables.
“You’re doing your best to help who needs help, but at the same time you’re watching your back and everyone else’s back to make sure you don’t get injured.”
The incident last week sent ripples through fire services across Saskatchewan, and Willner said it can lead to second thoughts about the next time a firefighter heads out.
“It’s always in the back of your mind and it makes you question, ‘do I want to go out there?’” he said. “Deep down inside we all volunteered because we can help, and we go.”
Provincial Fire Commissioner Duane McKay said he’ll be meeting with Saskatchewan’s fire chiefs in the near future to discuss options for improving safety.