Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Department Chief Lucas Banton pours water on a barn fire on McCoy Lake Road on July 16, 2020. Crews from four fire departments in the Alberni Valley worked through the night to extinguish the fire, which caught in a hay barn at Tooth Acres, owned by retired dentist Dr. Fritz Zens. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Vancouver Island firefighter dies at scene of barn blaze

The volunteer firefighter suffered a medical emergency after arriving to assist

A firefighter has died after responding to a barn fire on Thursday (July 16) west of Port Alberni on Vancouver Island.

Lieutenant Ron Suits, with Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire Department, was responding to a blaze on McCoy Lake Road when he experienced a medical emergency after arriving at the fire.

READ: Fire destroys barn at hobby farm west of Port Alberni

Emergency personnel could be seen performing CPR on someone lying on a stretcher on the side of the road while fellow firefighters were battling the barn blaze. An ambulance left the scene more than half an hour later with sirens and lights activated.

Suits succumbed to this medical emergency, Sproat Lake VFD Chief Mike Cann said.

“Last night we lost one of our own. Our department grieves alongside of our member’s family and we must now come together to support his family and our members,” Cann said in a prepared statement.

“We want to express our sincerest condolences to the member’s family and to all members and their families of the Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire Department,” the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District released in a statement. “We also want to thank all Alberni Valley first responders who supported our member in the line of duty.”

“His dedication was felt by members of the department and his absence will be greatly missed,” Cann said. Suits was a firefighter in Sproat Lake for four and a half years. He also served on the board of the Dashwood volunteer fire department in Qualicum Beach from 2005-08.

This is the second firefighter death from their team in as many years that Sproat Lake volunteer firefighters have had to endure. Carla Kulczycki died on Jan. 2, 2019 from work-related cancer.

READ: Sproat Lake first responder ‘was a firefighter right until her passing’

Kulczycki was with the department for 16 years; she was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, in August 2017. Firefighters from all over Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland attended a line of duty death service Jan. 13, 2019 in Kulczycki’s honour.

Two other Alberni Valley firefighters also died in January 2019: retired Port Alberni Fire Dept. firefighter Bruce Trenholm and retired Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Dept. deputy chief Brian Brick, also of a work-related illness. Brick’s family opted not to carry out a public line of duty service.

Previous to that, it had been 14 years since a line of duty service had occurred in Port Alberni—for PAFD member Robert Beaudoin, who also died of a work-related cancer.

READ: Cherry Creek firefighters mourn former deputy chief

Alberni Valley fire crews were at the scene throughout the night putting out hot spots and breaking up the hay to cool it down.

Sproat Lake VFD was called back to the fire briefly on Friday morning when the hay began to smoulder. “The homeowner has his field sprinklers going on it,” Chief Mike Cann said.



susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional Districtfire

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

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases, highest daily count since July

The total of COVID-19 cases in the region is now at 662

A Kelowna clinic decided to immunize their patients in a drive-thru flu clinic earlier this month. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Interior Health anticipates increase in flu vaccinations this season

Some 300,000 doses of flu vaccine ready for distribution across Southern Interior

Grade 7 Trafalgar students show off posters they put up around downtown Nelson with information about residential schools. Photo: Tyler Harper
Trafalgar class puts up residential school history posters downtown

The Grade 7 students made their own websites and QR codes

The Capitol Theatre has been transformed into a courtroom for the trial of Const. Jason Tait that started on Sept. 28 and continues. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Defence begins presenting evidence in Nelson jury trial of RCMP officer

Const. Jason Tait is charged with manslaughter after a Castlegar incident in 2015

The West Kootenay Cycling Coalition says GoByBike Week was a success. Photo: Submitted
A round of applause for GoByBike Week supporters

Nearly 200 cyclists participated

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read