When we dial 9-1-1, we always know there will be someone there to help us. Frequently, that someone will put their life on the line to come to our aid. First Responders rarely ask for assistance; many would tell you they are very uncomfortable in doing so. Such is the case with Chief Bruce Burrell of Halifax, NS.
On June 1, 2017 Bruce was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). It is a terminal diagnosis with very limited treatment options. Bruce was approved to take a medication called OFEV in July 2017 and his condition remained relatively stable for the first 20 months. This past March his condition worsened significantly. According to his specialists, Bruce’s only option now is a double lung transplant. The operation will take place at the Toronto General Hospital making it necessary for Bruce and his wife, Jennifer, to move to Toronto and live within a short walking distance of the hospital for a period of six months to a year. While the Province of Nova Scotia does provide some support, it doesn’t come close to the costs of moving to downtown Toronto for an undetermined period of time while awaiting a donor match. Then they must also stay the mandatory post-op/anti-rejection minimum three-month period following the lengthy surgery.
Bruce’s passion for firefighting began when he was a volunteer in New Minas, NS, prior to joining the Halifax Fire Department. While Bruce served in the Fire Services of both Halifax and Calgary, he participated in and led some of those cities’ most significant emergencies and disasters: Hurricane Juan; White Juan; Swiss Air 111; and the Halifax Grain Explosion. While in Calgary for the final nine years of his career, Bruce attended many large-scale emergencies including major fires, windstorms, multi-fatality vehicular accidents, and industrial fires such as the Calgary Metals Fire of 2012. In his dual role as head of emergency management, he oversaw large, high impact events such as the management of and recovery from the Calgary Floods of 2013. Bruce’s experience has helped develop many of the policies and procedures that help keep all of us safer today.
If you know Bruce, or have ever needed help from any first responder, then you know how important they are to every community we live in. You also know they are not likely to reach out in their own personal time of need. But here is an opportunity to give back to one individual who very much needs our help. This is Bruce’s moment to have his “community” respond to him and all his years of service.