Fallen firefighter James Hargrave, who died battling wildfires near the southeastern Alberta hamlet of Hilda, was honoured at a funeral Friday.
Hargrave died while he was trying to stop the Hilda grassfire from spreading into Saskatchewan on Oct. 17. The water-tanker truck he was driving lost control, rolled over and then collided with a second vehicle, according to RCMP.
Watch below from Oct. 19: Joel Senick has the latest details from Cypress County where a volunteer firefighter lost his life fighting a wildfire.
His funeral began at 1 p.m. at the Holy Family Parish in Medicine Hat.
His best friend, Jack Zieffle, remembered Hargrave as the ultimate family man and someone who was always willing to lend a helping hand.
“If there’s one thing I can tell you about James, it’s that his family was number one,” Zieffle said. “It didn’t matter what you did or what you were doing, he would always make sure he got to his family. If you were a friend in need, he was always there.”
Zieffle also spoke about him and Hargrave obsessing over the weather and weather apps – always gauging when lightning would strike next or how long it would rain. Zieffle said losing Hargrave was a difficult pill to swallow.
“I am going to miss him every day. Our weather chats and everything else,” he said.
“It’s a long road ahead for everybody… he will be dearly missed. He was my best friend and the best man I know.”
The service was followed by a procession in which Hargrave’s family and fellow firefighters marched to the Cypress Centre.
Other first responders, including police, EMS and search and rescue, were also in attendance.
Family members who spoke at the funeral said whether you knew him or didn’t, Hargrave always gave 100 per cent.
For Saskatchewan firefighters, those words couldn’t be truer.
Swift Current Fire Chief Denis Pilon described losing a fellow firefighter like “losing family.” Swift Current and surrounding towns responded to the blaze near Hilda. Pilon called it a tough loss.
“We are all one big family and we are all together on this… it brings us all together.”
Anyone wanting to pay respects to Hargrave was invited to do so by lining the route; the city had temporary road closures in place for the service.
A family member said his widow, Elizabeth, is trying to gather as many stories about Hargrave as she can for her children. Anyone wishing to share their memories or stories is asked to email: email@example.com.
— With files from Global’s Joel Senick and Christa Dao