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Esquimalt to host memorial hockey game for two Greater Victoria firefighters

Event meant to bring awareness to mental health, cancer incidences affecting fire service members
Central Saanich Fire Lt. Alex Levitt (left) and Oak Bay Fire Lt. Jason Joynson carry the flags of fallen Greater Victoria firefighters Forrest Owens and Ken Gill at a memorial service for B.C. firefighters at the legislature in Victoria on March 6, 2023. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)

Greater Victoria firefighters will be carving up the ice in Esquimalt as they face off in the first Ken Gill and Forrest Owens Memorial Hockey Game later this month.

The friendly game, being held at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, is meant to bring more awareness to mental health and cancer incidences affecting fire service members and communities across the capital region.

Ken Gill had a distinguished 33-year firefighting career with the Department of National Defence, Langford, Sidney and Oak Bay Fire Departments. He took took his own life in 2018.

Forrest Owens served the Central Saanich community for 35 years as a volunteer firefighter, Captain and career Assistant Fire Chief. He succumbed to occupational cancer in 2022.

Occupational cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths in the fire service, while first responders who experience multiple traumatic events have a higher risk of developing post-traumatic stress.

Victoria medical oncologist Dr. Kenneth Kunz will attend the event to speak about the impacts of cancer and firefighting with both firefighters and their families.

“Firefighters, by way of their career, are exposed to events that challenge their physical, emotional and spiritual health,” Kunz said in a news release. “Events such as this Esquimalt hockey tournament enable civilians and firefighters to come together in a way that enhances the social protective fabric that keep us connected on the front line.”

The game also kicks off the Forrest Owens and Ken Gill Memorial Scholarship, which will be awarded to two standout students from Esquimalt High School for being positive role models in their community later this spring.

“The effects of cancer and the impacts on mental health in the fire service are significant — bringing awareness to this issue is something we feel strongly about. We wanted to honour the memories of Forrest and Ken by supporting youth in our community,” Esquimalt Fire Chief Steve Serbic said.

“This is the first year for the scholarship program and we are proud to see support from departments across Greater Victoria.”

The game takes place March 25 and is open to the public. Additional details of the game can be found on the township website and Facebook.

READ MORE: PHOTOS: B.C. firefighters honour fallen colleagues with Victoria parade

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