By ALAN SHACKLETON
A group of more than 70 cyclists braved the scorching heat of Toronto today as they took part in the first leg of a three-day ride to the National Firefighters Memorial in Ottawa.
The Toronto Fire Celtic Society’s Memorial Ride began early on the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 6, in Hamilton, and stopped for a lunch break at the Toronto Fire Academy on Eastern Avenue.
The riders will continue through to Cobourg tonight, and then to Kingston on the second day of the ride. The final day of the ride will see the riders cycle from Kingston to Ottawa this Friday.
Organized by the Toronto Fire Celtic Society, this is the seventh year for the ride which raises awareness of and funds for the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation (CFFF) which host the annual National Firefighters Memorial ceremony which is set for Sunday, Sept. 10. This year’s ceremony will honour more than 80 firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty this year.
Firefighters’ line of duty deaths include those such as the result of responding to an incident, while training, and work-related illnesses such as cancer from exposure to carcinogenic materials.
Toronto firefighter David Cossitt first organized the ride seven years ago, and at that time if went from Toronto to Ottawa and was made up of 13 members of the Toronto Fire Celtic Society. Now there are 74 riders taking part, including one from Newfoundland and one from Quebec.
Cossitt said he was pleased to see how the ride has grown.
“We have about nine departments involved now…Ottawa and Toronto have the biggest contingent of riders taking part,” he said on Wednesday during the riders’ break at the Toronto Fire Academy.
Cossitt said organizing the ride and the riders through busy Toronto traffic today was bit like “herding cats”. He said without an escort from the Toronto Police Motor Unit, they would have had a hard time making it through.
“We really appreciate the police services support on this,” he said.
Cossitt acknowledged that the heat was a challenge for the riders and they were consuming lots of water to stay hydrated.
Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg also spoke on Wednesday about the importance of the ride and the National Firefighters Memorial.
“There are far too many names of friends and colleagues of all of us,” on the memorial, he said.
“It’s an emotionally charged thing to watch and see them coming down the street,” said Pegg of the riders.
As the riders left the Toronto Fire Academy to continue their ride to Cobourg, they were applauded by firefighters and Toronto Fire recruits lining Knox Avenue as it headed up to Eastern Avenue.
So far, the ride has raised more than $300,000 in support of the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
For more information on the ride, please go to https://www.celticfireride.ca/
For more information on the National Firefighters Memorial, please go to https://www.cfff.ca/EN/index.html