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Memorial hockey game honours firefighters and raises awareness of on-the-job hazards

Greater Victoria firefighters will be lacing up their skates Saturday to honour three members who died after serving their communities. (CTV) Greater Victoria firefighters will be lacing up their skates Saturday to honour three members who died after serving their communities. (CTV)
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Greater Victoria firefighters will be lacing up their skates Saturday to honour three members who died after serving their communities.

Esquimalt’s Archie Browning Sports Centre will host the first “Ken Gill and Forrest Owens Memorial Hockey Game” to celebrate the lives of the fallen firefighters. Organizers of the family-friendly event also want to raise awareness of the high incidence of cancer suffered by members of the fire service across Canada.

“Two of the greatest risk factors for firefighters are occupational cancer and mental illness,” said Esquimalt Fire Chief Steve Serbic.

"We want to acknowledge that these are issues in our profession and we want to create and environment where people can come and talk about it.”

Ken Gill died in 2018 after serving the communities of Langford, Sidney, Oak Bay and CFB Esquimalt for more than 33 years. After retiring in 2014, Gill served as the fire department chaplain for both the Esquimalt and Oak Bay fire departments and was a strong advocate for mental health.

Forrest Owens was a member of the Central Saanich Fire Department for 35 years, serving as a volunteer firefighter, fire captain, and assistant fire chief. Owens died in his home on June 21, 2022, due to complications resulting from his battle with cancer.

Langford Assistant Fire Chief Lance Caven will also be honoured at the memorial hockey game. Caven served the community of Langford for more than 30 years. He died earlier this week after an 18-month battle with cancer.

“We will have families in the stands of those fallen firefighters and we will also have BC Cancer Agency to answer questions," said Serbic. “We’re going to create a space where people can come and talk about mental health or cancer awareness.”

Serbic says before the puck is dropped to start the game, there will be a special presentation made to two Esquimalt High School students as a legacy for Gill and Owens.

“We’ll be giving two scholarships, one will be in Ken Gill’s name and the other in Forrest Owens' name,” said Serbic. “The scholarships will be going to two great kids who’ve done great work in their community.”

Serbic says he hopes the event will bring awareness to the unseen perils faced by firefighters as they serve the residents in their communities. He says it is also a way for the community of firefighters to come together to remember and celebrate three valued members who were lost.

“It's for firefighters who knew those individuals to get out there and pass the puck around and have some fun,” he said.

The doors open at the Archie Browning Sports Centre on Esquimalt Road at 11:30 a.m. The puck drops at noon. 

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