'Ron was a great man': Procession planned for island firefighter who died responding to call
PORT ALBERNI -- "It's going to be very sad, very real. It is very sad to be bringing him back for his last time."
That's the reaction Sproat Lake Fire Chief Mike Cann had when asked about an emotional procession that’s set to take place on Wednesday for one of his firefighters.
"Ron was a great man, he was caring," said Cann. "Someone who does 27 years as a career and then comes back and volunteers, you don't know too many people that do that."
Ron Suits died from a heart attack while attending a barn fire on McCoy Lake Road in the Alberni Valley on July 16, 2020. He had just arrived on a tanker truck ready to go into action.
"He got out of the truck, he told me that he wasn't feeling well so I got first responders with him right away," said Cann.
"They walked him over to the side of the road and he just slowly passed away."
Fifteen fire departments from Campbell River to Langford are expected to line the route of the procession Wednesday, between Courtenay, where Suits' cremated remains will be picked up, and Sproat Lake, where he will be delivered to.
The firefighter's wife and daughter are expected to also be riding in an engine along the route, which will travel along the old Island Highway. The truck should be leaving the Comox Valley around 3:15 p.m. and pass through Port Alberni around 5:30 p.m.
Line of duty death services are normally formal occasions for firefighters, but pandemic restrictions will make the event for Suits much different. Firefighters are asking any members of the public along the route to ensure they are physically distancing.
Cann says Suits was a career firefighter who worked with the Calgary Fire Department for 27 years before serving on the board of directors at Dashwood Fire for three years. After that, he volunteered at Sproat Lake for four and a half years.
"The reason he came here actually was to bring his son to join as a junior," said Cann. "His son actually liked the medical field so he's working up in Port McNeill on ambulances, just starting out."
Sproat Lake's fire chief says Suits will be remembered best for his first responder calls.
"He was so calm and did everything right because he had been there doing it for so long in the big city and such," said Cann.
He says Suits’ death will have a lasting effect on the other firefighters, especially since he died while at a fire scene.
"Some of the tankers and crews had to work right by there while they were doing CPR on Ron, so that stays with those guys forever," said Cann.
He compared the situation to that of a death that occurs at places like a construction site, where workers are immediately sent home and don't return until after an investigation is complete. That's something that doesn't happen at a fire scene.
"You can't shut down, you have to keep going."