Sister of firefighter asks that the death of Devyn Gale be a wake up call
By Meagan Deuling
Kayln Gale looks small and young on the stage at the Revelstoke high school auditorium, beside her brother Nolan, both of them in the red shirt and blue pants B.C. Wildfire Service firefighters wear.
Their sister Devyn Gale was killed on July 12 by a falling tree near Hiren Creek outside of Revelstoke. She was responding to a fire on an initial attack crew, a member of the Columbia Fire Zone. Kayln on Saturday spoke at her funeral, asking for her sister’s death to be a call to action.
“Maybe this is what we needed to question whether we want firefighters like my 19-year old sister being the hottest commodity in the country for four months straight every year,” Gale said.
Devyn’s favourite tree was a Western red cedar, she said, and it was a cedar that killed her.
“The world isn’t playing fair … and these summers and the fires and the temps won’t stop, just because we lost a friend, a colleague, or a sister,” she said.
Devyn Gale’s younger sister was addressing 1000s of people in the auditorium, the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre, the Forum, a crowd spilling outside the school, and online.
She was addressing Premier David Eby to his face as he and other dignitaries from the B.C. government were sitting in the front row.
Firefighters and first responders from across the province marched in a procession from the Revelstoke Fire Department to the high school. Members of the public lined the procession route, and joined the march as it went by. Aside from music from a pipe band, hundreds of people walked in silence.
Devyn grew up in Revelstoke competing in trampoline gymnastics. She swam, played volleyball, was a firefighter and had just completed her second near of a nursing degree at UBC Okanagan.
Her gymnastics couch Jill Drake spoke of being in Devyn’s life as they grew up together, Devyn as a person, Jill as a couch.
Stefan Hood, a fire technician with B.C. Wildfire Services based in Revelstoke, spoke about how Devyn was in the prime of her firefighting career. She knew the drill, people looked up to her, but she hadn’t started to question yet the whys and hows of their responding to fires.
Hood thanked Devyn’s family and community for loaning her to the firefighting base in Revelstoke.
“I’m sorry we can’t return the favour,” he said. “This was an inequitable transaction.”
Casey Robinson, the Columbia Fire Zone’s initial attack crew leader, trained Devyn when she first started. He talked about how she recruited her brother and sister to fight fires, and how her parents, Philomena and Graham would take in firefighters.
The fire crew refers to her family as the ‘Gale Force.’
Robinson told her family that the Columbia zone will be here for them in the days and years to come.
“You will always be part of the Columbia zone family,” he said.
Nolan Gale talked about how his sister took him under her wing when he joined B.C. Wildfire, as she did with other recruits.
“I’m grateful to have spent one last day firefighting with you,” he said. “I’m grateful to have been close to you when the tree fell, I’m grateful to have been one of the people to pull you out from under it, because it meant I got a few extra minutes with you.”
Premier Eby spoke with reporters after the funeral, thanking the Gale family for their service to the province.
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Photo caption: Devyn Gale’s firefighting shirt and boots on display Saturday at her memorial in Revelstoke. Photo by Lerritt Robinson.