Devyn Gale and Adam Yeadon would never have called themselves heroes, but they really were. In every sense of the word.
Gale, 19, was a third-year nursing student who loved hard work. Yeadon, 25, couldn’t wait for those helicopter rides that gave him a bird’s eye view of the landscape . . . on fire. That’s what both of these heroes had in common before they died – fighting wildfires.
Gale was killed on July 13 when a tree fell on her near Revelstoke. Yeadon was killed after suffering an injury on the front lines in the North West Territories. Such a tragedy, and a huge loss to every community, not just their own; tears were shed across Canada.
Fighting wildfires is not a job that many people would consider, especially now that climate change has significantly altered our planet. The work is tough, dirty, dangerous, and stressful, but Gale and Yeadon took it on with gusto because they loved it and wanted to make a difference. Yeadon was happiest with a chainsaw in his hands, and Gale was so proud to wear that red shirt and blue pants. According to the BC Wildfire Service, “she was the heart of us.”
You might call these wildland firefighters crazy to traipse into the lair of a fire-breathing dragon, but that’s what they do. That’s the sacrifice they make to save our forests and property from destruction. Once they commit themselves, they have a moral duty to finish the job and put the fire out by slaying the dragon, only to go back home, rest up and fight another one that is terrorizing the land.
So yes, they are the real heroes, the ones with hose and shovel in hand, risking their lives with every step they take.
Being out there in the suffocating heat is hard to imagine . . . building guards, setting up water bladders, operating pumps, putting out hot spots, sleeping when you can, and doing it all over again the next day, contending with hornets, ants, rattlesnakes and singed eyebrows.
We honour these men and women for everything they do for us, including the aircraft pilots who make those brave runs over those ornery dragons. They have been the game-changers countless times, tipping the balance in our favour.
In tribute to our fallen heroes, Gale would have made a great nurse with her compassion, and Yeadon would have saved another day in the woods with his dedication. Both were a testament to what the BC Wildfire Service is all about, and they left a legacy to inspire others to go above and beyond in their duty.
Lyonel Doherty, editor