COLD LAKE -- Cold Lake firefighters in full gear took part in Sunday's 4 Wing (CFB Cold Lake) 5K walk/run to honour William Hilts, the pilot who died battling an area wildfire.
Hilts was fighting fires in an Air Tractor AT-802 "Fire Boss" amphibious water bomber for Conair Aerial Firefighting, under contract to Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD), when his plane crashed on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range May 22 around 5:20 p.m.
Volunteer firefighter Joe Siu helped pull together the honour walk for Hilts.
"We thought (Sunday) would be a good opportunity for us to walk as a team to honour him, and to show support to his family, and to show support to all the wildland firefighters, for fighting all the Alberta wildfires right now," Siu said.
"We thought this would be a great opportunity for us to walk beside each other, and to remind ourselves how important our families are to us, and we have to look after each other when we're out in a big fire call like that."
Cold Lake Fire Rescue Chief Jeff Fallow was fully supportive of Siu's idea.
"The fire service is about family. it's an extended family, with firefighters around the world," said Fallow.
About 10 firefighters from the Cold Lake force attended the walk.
Fallow said that though the death of a fellow firefighter affects the team, they are still focussed on the job at hand.
"Any time there's a death, it always weighs on your mind," he said. "We're there to do a job, and we're trained to do that job. It gives you a little more vigour to make sure you do it properly and you get it out as soon as possible to honour that fallen member."
"We train, we train hard, and we fight many grassfires here in the local area," Siu added. "We trust our training, we trust our leaders, and we trust our command. We're familiar with our trucks, with our equipment, so we're pretty confident out there when we fight those big fires."
Cold Lake Fire Rescue has supported Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) when required, but the area wildfire falls out of the local department's jurisdiction.
There are over 260 firefighters and staff, including firefighters from other provinces, as well as air tankers, 18 helicopters, six cat units, water trucks, and various other pieces of heavy equipment are fighting the weapons range fire.
The Transportation Safety Board is still investigating what caused Hilts' plane to crash.
Investigators were able to access the site early Saturday, May 23, with the help of Alberta forestry helicopters, a spokesperson said. Investigators spent May 24 and 25 interviewing eyewitnesses.
The fire on the weapons range has grown to over 31,000 hectares since May 22.
http://www.edmontonsun.com/2015/06/01/c ... hting-fire