A group of Halifax firefighters made a weekend trip to Worcester, Mass., to help bury a fellow firefighter killed while battling an apartment building fire Dec. 9.
Six members of Halifax Fire’s pipe and drum band and two honour guard members, along with more than 1,000 others, paid their respects Saturday to Christopher Roy, 36, of the Worcester Fire Department.
Michael Sears, a fifth-generation firefighter who lives in Dartmouth, said he got a call from the Worchester department’s pipe major who wanted to know if Halifax members would be coming. The group left Friday and returned Sunday night.
The Halifax pipes and drums band has performed with the Greater Boston fire department’s pipes and drums, both in Boston and in Halifax, Sears said.
“They kind of refer to us as their sister band. So we’re really tight with those guys and then, because of that relationship, got to meet a lot of the other department members throughout Massachusetts.”
Pipes and drums bands in the fire service have a long history, he said. Many members throughout the years have come from Celtic and Irish backgrounds and playing at funerals has been a tradition, said Sears, a 15-year veteran of Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency.
Roy was a single father of a nine-year-old girl, Ava. To help his daughter remember her father, the Halifax group contributed their uniform patches to a collection organized by a local firefighter.
“It’s hard on the day, all you see is a swarm of uniforms,” Sears said.
Ava Roy can later hold and look at the patches, tangible signs of the people who came and showed their support, he said.
It’s one of a number of trips Halifax firefighters have made to Massachusetts following tragedy, including the 2011 funeral of a Worcester firefighter and in 2014 for two Boston firefighters killed on the job.
In 1999, Sears said a large group of firefighters went down when Worcester lost six members in a fire at an abandoned cold storage building. Roy’s death came only days after Worcester marked 19 years since that fire.
The sight of the ladder truck that carried Roy to his last call, and which would return to the station without him, was particularly moving to Sears.
“The door handle got me. How many times we grab the door handle and get on the truck to go to a call, to go to a fire … much the same as that guy got in and went. He never thought a few days later it would be sitting in front of that church,” he said.
He said members of other Maritime fire services also attended.
“It’s very much a family, very different from a lot of other jobs. At times like this, we all come together and support each other. We know the job we do is dangerous and it could happen to any one of us at any time,” Sears said.
“It’s a really hard job to explain to anyone unless you’ve done it and been part of it. We’re a pretty tight-knit community.”