A 19-year-old B.C. firefighter who police say was killed by a falling tree near Revelstoke on Thursday has been identified by her brother as Devyn Gale, who was a former member of the B.C. gymnastics team and a star pupil at her high school.
Nolan Gale said in an Instagram post that his sister was “kind and thoughtful,” and he’s grateful to have grown up alongside her.
“Devyn was an amazing sister,” Nolan posted. “She was smarter and better at what she did than she gave herself credit for.”
“She truly didn’t deserve this.”
Revelstoke RCMP said in a news release that does not name Devyn Gale that the young firefighter was working on brush-clearing in a remote area where a fire had started.
Mounties said her team lost contact with her before finding her pinned under a fallen tree. They immediately gave her first aid, but she succumbed to her injuries after being airlifted to a hospital in Revelstoke.
The Revelstoke RCMP said the death is now under investigation by police, the BC Coroners Service, WorkSafeBC, as well as the BC Wildfire Service.
At Revelstoke Secondary School’s 2021 graduation ceremony, Gale was described as the school’s “best all around student” that year and “extremely hardworking.”
Video of the graduation ceremony shows Gale accepting her diploma as an MC reads out a number of scholarships awarded to her, detailing her plans to pursue a career in nursing.
Gale’s death comes as B.C. battles more than 360 fires across the province.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the death was “heartbreaking,” offering condolences to the firefighter’s family, friends and fellow firefighters.
Trudeau made the comments on social media, reflecting similar statements issued late Thursday by Premier David Eby and the BC General Employees Union.
Gale’s death is the fourth linked to B.C. wildfires since 2010.
Sixty-year-old John Phare was killed in 2015 while working on a blaze on the Sunshine Coast, north of Vancouver, and two Conair airtanker pilots, Tim Whiting and Brian Tilley, died when their plane went down south of Lytton in July 2010.
The BC Wildfire Service says tens of thousands of lightning strikes over the last seven days have sparked hundreds of new fires in the province, but with temperatures closer to average and some rain expected next week, a slight reprieve might be on the way.
“We must never forget the risks these heroes take every time they run toward the danger,” Trudeau’s statement said.
“To firefighters in British Columbia and across the country who are doing just that to keep us safe: Thank you.”
Eby’s statement called the firefighter’s death a “tremendous loss for everyone involved with the BC Wildfire Service at an already challenging time.”
The statement said the tragedy serves as a heartbreaking reminder that firefighters are often putting their lives on the line to keep people and communities safe, and offers condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the woman on behalf of all British Columbians.
Gale’s death came as the province put out a call for national and international help to fight the hundreds of active fires across B.C.
The province has requested 1,000 additional foreign firefighters to join 160 from Mexico and the United States already in B.C., as well as more federal resources, Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Minister Bowinn Ma said Thursday.
The wildfire service says the total number of active fires has topped 360, while the number of threatening or potentially damaging blazes has jumped to 17, all but one of them in woodlands from west of Quesnel to the Fort Nelson area.
Lightning is forecast through Saturday in many parts of northern B.C. and the southern and southeastern Interior, but Environment Canada is calling for showers and more seasonal temperatures to start next week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2023.