PUPPY LOVE--Invermere Fire and Rescue chief Roger Ekman welcomes a new 11-week-old Dalmatian, Ember, to the family.  Photo by Eric Elliott

PUPPY LOVE–Invermere Fire and Rescue chief Roger Ekman welcomes a new 11-week-old Dalmatian, Ember, to the family.Photo by Eric Elliott

For centuries, the image of a firefighter has always been accompanied by its most notorious mascot, Sparky the Dalmatian. Roger Ekman, Chief of Invermere Fire and Rescue, is keeping that tradition alive with his new 11-week-old Dalmatian Ember.

For Mr. Ekman, this is now the fourth Dalmatian to join both his family and the Invermere Fire and Rescue team. His first Dalmation, Sheba, lived for 13 and a half years before passing with Mr. Ekman getting Blaze and Cinder his second and third Dalmations in the short time after Shebas passing. Both Blaze and Cinder passed away earlier this summer at 14 years old, leaving an absence in the Ekman family that he and his wife Marion were looking to fill.

We knew we were going to get another one, but she just came along a lot sooner than what we were expecting, he said. Theyre so much family, eh? You miss them when theyre gone.

Mr. Ekman said that he and his wife went up to the breeders in rural Alberta two weeks after hearing from the breeders that they had a female Dalmatian who was in need of a good home. Mr. Ekman said his wife didnt hesitate at the opportunity, telling Roger only one thing.

Pack up the trailer.

Continuing the tradition of naming the Dalmatians with fire-like monikers, Mr. Ekman said his wife decided to name their fourth Dalmatian Ember once they brought her back to Invermere.

As a firefighter, Mr. Ekman said that Dalmatians hold a great level of importance in his heart and he wants to see the tradition of using Dalmatians as mascots for fire halls continued well into the future.

I would like to see it go on, just to keep the tradition going, he said. Its always in the little (info) paper thats (handed out to) kids about Sparky the Dalmatian and hopefully it carries on.

For those who dont know more about the significance of the popularized mascot Sparky, the tradition of Dalmatians in firehouses dates back more than a century. According to Trevor J. Orsingers book, The Firefighters Best Friend: Lives and Legends of Chicago Firehouse Dogs, Dalmatians were used to run alongside horse carriages, barking to let bystanders know to get out of the way of the oncoming wagon.

Additionally, once on the scene, Dalmatians served as a calming presence for the horses who were afraid of the fire as they moved closer with the wagon.

Mr. Ekman said there are only a select few fire halls throughout B.C. that are continuing the tradition, noting that many see Dalmatians today as just another dog. That said, its a tradition thats still alive and well for Invermere Fire and Rescue.