WATCH: Hundreds of first responders from across the province came to the island over the weekend to honour a fallen firefighter. Carla Kulczycki was given a full hero’s service, after passing away from an aggressive form of brain cancer. Kori Sidaway has the story.
First responders from around B.C. gathered in foggy Port Alberni on Sunday to pay tribute to one of their own.
“It was a shock,” said Mike Cann, chief of Sproat Lake’s Volunteer Fire Department.
“She was very young, and it’s a real shame to see a young person like that get sick.”
Carla Kulczycki served for 16 years as a Sproat Lake Volunteer firefighter and was a big part of the department.
“She was always getting the guys together after practice for wings and beers, always organizing events. She was always the glue that kept our hog going sometimes,” said Sproat Lake’s deputy fire chief Rick Geddes.
But in August of 2017, Kulczycki’s health took a turn.
“About a year-and-a-half ago she came to me saying she needed to step back from the department, she was having some medical problems,” said Geddes.
“She just wasn’t feeling well and was later diagnosed with cancer.”
Kulczycki was told she had glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer that came as a result of her work as a firefighter.
“WorkSafe has recognized certain types of cancers among firefighters that can be directly related to the role as a firefighter, therefore it’s considered job-related,” said Geddes.
“There are so many toxic chemicals that when they catch on fire, it’s all dangerous,” said fellow Sproat Lake firefighter Dennis Jonsson.
After a 16-month-battle, Kulczycki died earlier January at the age of 46. Just this Sunday she was given the fire department’s first full military-style funeral for dying in the line of duty.
“We’ve never had a ceremony like this in the history of the fire department,” said Cann.
In an emotional service, friends, family, coworkers and teammates all gathered to honour the fallen firefighter.
“Today the bell will be rung to signify Carla is gone, for the final time,” said an emotional Geddes during a speech.
Carla is remembered as being as being a strong-willed firefighter who took great honour in being a first responder right until her passing.
“She was a good mother, a good friend. She was always there, the first one leading the charge,” said Cann.
“It didn’t matter how dirty the job was she would be hands in there, getting the job done.”
Carla leaves behind three daughters, grandchildren, and many other family and friends.