Quesnel firefighter Brian Morgan was commemorated with an honour guard funeral on June 11 through the streets of the downtown. (Quesnel Fire Rescue Department photo)

Fallen Quesnel firefighter given celebration of honour

Ceremonial procession out of respect for beloved first responder

When the community needed help in its darkest hours, Brian Morgan was there.

For decades, this accomplished heavy-duty mechanic and Class 1 driver would rush from the dinner table or bolt out of bed in the middle of the night to the aid of whomever was in distress. That’s the job of anyone in the Quesnel Fire Rescue Department, but few did it as long or as focused as Morgan.

Born in New Westminster to mother Pierrette and father William on May 19, 1961, and a graduate of Correlieu Senior Secondary’s class of 1980, he passed away in the care of Quesnel hospice services on May 19, 2023. The cause of death was cancer, as much a consequence of firefighting as any incident on-scene.

One of the lines of the Firefighter’s Prayer says “And if, according to my fate, I am to lose my life; Please bless with your protecting hand my children and my wife.”

His wife Shelley and his children Jason (Danielle), Christopher (Letitia) and Ashley (Mike) along with Morgan’s grandchildren Adrien, Isaac, Quinn, Laela, Aubrey and Peyton were the centre of his celebration of life on June 11 at the Quesnel Seniors’ Centre. All around them, lining the streets and filling the seats, were his extended family of firefighters, highway rescue personnel, police, and other first responders who were mourning not just someone they knew, but a fallen colleague.

They commemorated him with a uniformed procession down Kinchant Street, past city hall and the Royal Canadian Legion before arriving at the downtown gathering place where an honour guard performed the rites of the profession’s highest regards.

“Brian was a good friend to us all,” said podium chief Dale Carlson, Morgan’s former fire chief (now retired) with the QFRD.

“Brian joined the Quesnel Volunteer Firemen’s Association and the department in June, 1991, retiring to associate’s status in 2020. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 2005. Brian was also willing to take courses in firefighting and leadership over the years, to improve his skills as a firefighter and a leader in the fire service. He was awarded the Fire Service’s Exemplary Service Medal for 20 years of loyal, meritorious service to the public safety of Canada in 2011. He was awarded the B.C. 25-year Fire Service Medal in 2016. Brian received his life membership in the Quesnel Volunteer Fire Department in 2016. After serving 29 years, active service, Brian retired from firefighting due to illness.”

That illness is one with which all too many firefighters have had to contend.

It may have taken his life, but it also illuminated how Morgan lived his. He was described by those who knew him as always, to the end, a pleasure to be around.

His quirky sense of humour was only outstripped by his dutiful sense of family and, by extension, community. He was one of life’s class clowns, but also one of life’s courageous first responders.

“On the associate side, after joining the department, Brian was a wonderful asset, not only to firefighting,” but also the association’s social and community activities. He was one of my go-to guys every time it was required,” said Carlson during his professional eulogy.

The personal eulogy was delivered by Christopher Fitzgerald of Clayton’s Funeral Service who described his passion for driving – on the golf course and on the stock car track. He described a man who certainly encountered life’s struggles and setbacks but took the firefighter’s approach to them by living a life of hope, optimism, and working for better outcomes than what we are confronted with in this moment now.

“He always made you feel you could count on him,” Fitzgerald said. In literal truth, whether they knew him by name or not, the whole community did.

At the conclusion of the emotional, heartfelt ceremony, the symbolic firebell was gonged three times by firefighter Ken Wittig, Morgan’s helmet ceremonially presented to Morgan’s wife Shelley by current fire chief Ron Richert, and then an alert called in over the emergency communications system thanking Brian Morgan for his tireless service, giving him permission to stand down.

“We will take it from here.”

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