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'Ultimate sacrifice': Markham unveils memorial to five fallen firefighters

Markham's is first monument to fallen firefighters in York Region
Sept. 27, 2021
Lisa Queen

Emotional following the unveiling of a memorial commemorating Markham’s fallen firefighters, retired Markham firefighter Cliff Hollands laid his hand on a bronze statue of a firefighter helmet honouring his deceased father.

Albert Hollands served with Markham’s Fire Service from 1971 to 1992 before dying of duty-related non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Cliff Hollands recalled his father’s sense of humour and remembered how he put family first and his job a close second.

“He enjoyed dedicating his 27 years (as a firefighter), on both volunteers and fulltime,” he said.

“I was honoured to work with him in his last year (1991 into 1992) with the department. He transferred into my division, fire prevention, and our desks were side by side.”

Cliff Hollands’ wife, Debbie, also has fond memories of her father-in-law.

“He was a quiet man but if push came to shove and someone needed help, he was right there every time,” she said.

Albert Hollands was one of five fallen Markham firefighters honoured at the ceremony outside the Markham Village public library branch on the morning of Sept. 25.

The event saw families, firefighters, politicians and officials come together to unveil a memorial statue, a plaque of the names of the fallen firefighters and five bronze firefighters’ helmets.

In addition to Albert Hollands, the fallen firefighters are Capt. Paul Donahoe, Capt. Lorne Martin and firefighters Jason Churchill and Larry Pilkey.

Markham’s is the first memorial dedicated to fallen firefighters in York Region.

Andrew Ireland, vice-president of the Markham Professional Firefighters Assoc., paid tribute to the men.

“These are the fallen brothers we are honouring, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their families, their community, their brothers and sisters who continue to serve and those who are yet to serve,” he said.

“While they are no longer with us, their lives have forged indelible legacies, which have benefitted the Markham Fire Service and the profession today. We owe much to these few and our debt of gratitude to them can never be fully paid.”

While “unquestionably” heroes in life, they remain heroes in death as their ultimate sacrifice has helped pave the way for legislation recognizing duty-related disease, Ireland said.

Fire chief Adam Grant called the memorial very significant and said it caused him to reflect on his responsibility to ensure no further names of fallen firefighters are added to the plaque.

Mayor Frank Scarpitti also paid tribute to the fallen firefighters.

“Five helmets represent the five Markham souls lost in the line of duty, lost too early in life,” he said, thanking firefighters who put their lives on the line to keep the community safe.

“They do that for the love of the job. They do that for love of humanity. They do that because they want to be there to be the ones who help. But they also undertake that role knowing that it has an impact on their families, whether it’s the sacrifice of time, the incidents and the memories of those incidents that they bring home or, God forbid, making the ultimate sacrifice.”