Fire departments from all over Vancouver Island will be taking part in a service for former Sproat Lake volunteer firefighter Lt. Ron Suits.
Suits died on July 16, 2020 after going into cardiac arrest while responding to a barn fire on the rural McCoy Lake Road in the Alberni Valley.
On Wednesday, July 29, members of the Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire Department (SLVFD) will be travelling to Courtenay to bring Suits’ remains back to the Alberni Valley.
“Six of us are going down to Courtenay to pick up Ron’s ashes and bring them back,” said SLVFD Chief Mike Cann. “It’s planned to be a fairly big procession, with a number of fire departments involved.”
Port Alberni Fire Department Chief Mike Owens has done most of the organizing for the procession, which will involve at least 15 fire departments, from Langford to Campbell River. Suits’ wife and daughter will also take part in the procession.
The procession will be leaving Comox at 3:15 p.m. and will travel through Oceanside before arriving back at the Sproat Lake fire department on Highway 4.
“We’re planning on rolling through [Port Alberni] at about 5:30 p.m.,” said Cann.
Suits’ death was the second line of duty death that the Sproat Lake VFD has experienced in 18 months. Firefighter Carla Kulczycki died in January 2019 from glioblastoma—a work-related cancer. After Kulczycki’s death, firefighters and other first responders held an honour guard, parading up Roger Street to the Alberni Valley Mutliplex.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the same sort of service is not possible for Lt. Ron Suits.
“You can’t have a full line of duty death service,” said Cann. “That involves large crowds. That’s why we’re doing the drive from Courtenay into town.”
Suits served with the SLVFD for four and a half years, after almost four decades as a career firefighter. Cann said the service is going to feel “very sad, and very real” on Wednesday.
“On a construction job, if there’s a fatality, they shut the site down, they send everybody home,” he said. “They do an investigation, they’ll have a safety meeting, and then they’ll resume work. On a fire, you can’t shut down.
“You’ve got to keep going.”