PHOTOS: Victoria Fire Department honours fallen firefighters with new memorial bell and plaque

Victoria Fire Department Platoon Captain Oscar Pohl speaks at the ceremony for the Memorial Bell. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Dec. 17, 2019 – Victoria Fire Department Platoon Captain Oscar Pohl speaks at the ceremony for the Memorial Bell. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Dec. 17, 2019 – Members of the Victoria Fire Department Honour Guard prepare to ring the new Memorial Bell in honour of people who have died in the line of duty. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Dec. 17, 2019 – Members of the Victoria Fire Department Honour Guard stand to attention as part of a ceremony welcoming a new Memorial Bell. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Dec. 17, 2019 – A new memorial bell has been installed at the Victoria Fire Department. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Members of the Victoria Fire Department Honour Guard lined the hall on Tuesday morning in a ceremony to commemorate the installation of a new memorial bell.

“The goal is to ring that bell as few times as possible,” said Fire Chief Paul Bruce. The bell is rung every time a firefighter dies in the line of duty.

Bells, Bruce explained, have had a long-held tradition in the firefighting realm; they call people to duty, they signify when they’ve returned and they act as a knell when someone’s time has ended.

Before the new bell was installed the Victoria Fire Department relied on a bell attached to an older ceremonial fire truck for ceremonies. For years, the department was keeping an eye out for a bell that would work well as a standalone ceremonial bell. The opportunity came when the department upgraded its fleet with a new ladder truck bought from the United States which had a chrome bell attached to it.

ALSO READ: Last tweaks to new Victoria fire hall project coming to city council

“It was always a desire for the honour guard to have its own bell but money being tight, things being tight… it never came to fruition,” said Platoon Capt. Oscar Pohl. “On the front of that [American] apparatus was a bell, and it was all of sudden like the dream started to take form.”

American bells typically have an eagle on top, so a more traditional beaver was placed on the bell when it came to its Canadian home.

Retired fire chief Michael Heppell constructed the base of the bell out of scraps of wood he’d gathered while restoring some of the antique trucks.

Alongside the bell the Victoria Fire Department unveiled a new commemorative plaque with the names of fallen firefighters. In the Department’s 161-year history five members have died: Lt. Joseph Lund, Firefighter Fred Medley, Capt. J.C. Hucky, Firefighter Len Harper and Fire Chief Richard Couch.

PHOTOS: Hundreds gather in Victoria to honour fallen firefighters

Chief Couch was the most recent addition to the list, and the first to be recognized in a line of duty death years after he retired. Couch retired in 2006 and died in 2018.

“My husband is probably the first one on that plaque to be recognized for a line of duty death caused by the toxins he would have been exposed to, because he died of a very aggressive kind of cancer traced to being a firefighter,” said the former chief’s widow Joanne Couch. “I think for the fire department this bell is something that they’ve been working towards having and it’s very important for them to have this as part of their honour guard and they services they provide.”

The bell will also be brought forward at the annual BC Fallen Fire Fighter’s Memorial service, which recognizes all firefighters in the province who died in the line of duty that year.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Like us on Facebook, send a Tweet to @NicoleCrescenzi
and follow us on Instagram

firefightersVictoria Fire Department

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Spring shift in service includes no weekend late night bus services in Greater Victoria

Annual shift into spring sees additional decrease in frequency on multiple routes

UVic Vikes new basketball coach on the fast track

At 26, Shalie Dheensaw assumed head coaching role

No more ferries will sail from Departure Bay, Mill Bay, Brentwood Bay during COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. Ferries announces major changes to sailing schedules for 60 days starting Saturday, April 4

Greater Victoria liquor stores see spike in sales amidst COVID-19

Customers are buying go-to products in larger quantities

Excess activity damaging Saanich golf course – despite being closed

Cedar Hill Golf Course manager reminds people of the 170 parks available in Saanich

VIDEO: ‘Used gloves and masks go in the garbage,’ says irked B.C. mayor

Health officials have said single-use gloves won’t do much to curb the spread of COVID-19

POLL: Will you be able to make your rent or mortgage payment this month?

With the COVID-19 delivering a devastating blow to the global economy, and… Continue reading

COVID-19: postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Black Press Media ad sparks discussion about value of community newspapers

White Rock resident hopes front-page note shines light on revenue loss during COVID-19 crisis

53 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., four new deaths

B.C. has 498 active confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus

Nanaimo man arrested after allegedly setting house fire

Firefighters arrived to find mobile home ablaze on Barnes Road in Cedar on Thursday

Businesses advised to prepare for federal, B.C. COVID-19 assistance

Canada Revenue Agency portal expected to open next week

Dogs are property, not kids, B.C. judge tells former couple

Court decision made on competing lawsuits over Zeus and Aurora — a pit bull and pit bull cross

B.C. senior gives blood for 200th time, has ‘saved’ 600 lives

There was no cutting of cake for Harvey Rempel but he’s challenging youth to start donating blood

Most Read