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Grande Prairie remembers 9/11 fifteen years on

Local first responders and members of the public gathered Sunday afternoon to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. Grande Prairie Fire Chief Dan Lemiuex says he remembers the day like it was almost yesterday.

“15 years later it brings tears to my eyes and it brings tears to many people’s eyes to think that we lost 347 first responders and thousands of other individuals in a very short time. It had such a traumatic impact.”

In his speech to the crowd at the Pete Eager Fire Station, Lemieux highlighted the fire department’s efforts to combat the mental of the job and helping first responders deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The International Association of Fire Fighters will add the names of 123 fallen fire fighters from the United States and Canada who lost their lives over the past year to its Wall of Honor next weekend.

“We need to pay attention to that, so we’ve given additional training to our firefighters and to members of their families in terms of critical stress and what interventions need to occur. What we’ve done is built our own internal peer support team, which is highly trained and very proficient.”

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That team recently traveled to Fort McMurray to help counsel first responders during the May wildfires. IAFF Local 2770 President Ian MacDonald adds that firefighters also have physical health impacts to worry about, like a 2.5 times greater risk of getting cancer.

“There’s a whole litany of literature out there. They do blood tests after guys are in an active fire; they’re wearing their [breathing apparatus], all of our protective gear, but elevated levels of carcinogens and flame retardants are in the air we exhale and in our blood streams.”

Despite that, MacDonald calls his 13 year career the most rewarding job he’s ever had. Lemieux stresses the need for emergency services in the Peace region to work together. Grande Prairie RCMP and firefighters from the County of Grande Prairie and Wembley were also in attendance at the ceremony.

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