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Sproat Lake first responder ‘was a firefighter right until her passing’

Emergency personnel line Port Alberni street with honour guard for one of their own
Firefighters from the Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire Department wait for instruction from the Maple Ridge FD honour guard before marching fellow firefighter Carla Kulczycki’s ashes into the Alberni Athletic Hall on Sunday afternoon. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

On a sombre Sunday afternoon shrouded in fog, firefighters and other emergency personnel said goodbye to one of their own.

Sproat Lake Volunteer Firefighters, led by the Maple Ridge Fire Department honour guard and other first responders from the Alberni Valley and surrounding communities paraded up Roger Street from Sixth Avenue to the Alberni Athletic Hall to celebrate the life of Carla Kulczycki. She was a firefighter who died earlier this month of a work-related illness.

Members of the public lined the streets and the bantam rep Bulldogs’ hockey team came out in their uniforms from the AV Multiplex to stand quietly and pay their respects to Kulczycki, who played with the female hockey team the Hockey Bags.

Just after the honour guard arrived at the Alberni Athletic Hall, a “last page” was broadcast by the emergency dispatch centre over the radio in Kulczycki’s honour.

“She was loved and honoured by the members of the fire department,” said Marnie Cyr, whose husband Derrick is captain of No. 3 Hall for Sproat Lake VFD. “This is a wonderful honour.”

Cyr said it was a tough day for everyone, especially Kulczycki’s fellow firefighters. “They’re a brotherhood, a sisterhood and Carla was a big part of that. She will be sadly, sadly missed.”

The Athletic Hall was filled with friends, family, hockey and baseball teammates as well as Kulczycki’s firefighter family. Her uniform and hockey jersey graced one side of a podium, while a large photo and flags from the colour guard were on the other.

Kulczycki’s honours as a firefighter—she spent 16 years with the department—graced a table in the foyer of the hall, where people were also invited to leave messages and memories of their time with her.

“Carla was a member of the Sproat Lake Fire Dept. since 2002. She was an outstanding member who caught on quickly to everything and wasn’t afraid to ask questions about what she didn’t understand,” SLVFD Chief Mike Cann said.

“She was one of the hardest working firefighters we’ve ever had in both operations and the social activities of our department.

“She loved to take the lead role in organizing social events, and would often provide wing nights, oysters or appies after fire practice.

“She was a strong mentor to all our new members, never hesitating to make use of a teachable moment,” Cann added.

“She was a firefighter right until her passing. Carla absolutely loved being a first responder, and had her pager beside her, listening to every call until her very last day.”

Kulczycki was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, in August 2017.

This type of cancer is considered a work-related disease for firefighters, Cann explained; thus the decision to hold a line of duty service in Kulczycki’s honour.

The last time a line of duty service occurred in Port Alberni was 14 years ago for Port Alberni Fire Dept. member Robert Beaudoin, PAFD Capt. Randy Thoen said. Beaudoin also died of a work-related cancer.

Kulczycki is survived by her parents Gerald and Elizabeth Geislinger, her siblings, her children Kayla Kulczycki (Tyler), Krista Semchuk (Lance), and Keanna Sept, her grandchildren Tyson and Aubrey, as well as family friends Dean Sept, Sherrill Taylor and Lorraine Lebel.

Kulczycki’s family has asked that in lieu of flowers, guests consider bringing a non-perishable food item for donation to Ty Watson House, or to donate to Alberni Valley Hospice Society, 3088 Third Ave., Port Alberni, B.C.

Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire Department deputy chief Rick Geddes carries fallen firefighter Carla Kulczycki’s helmet in front of the department’s ladder truck during a line of duty honour guard, Sunday afternoon on Roger Street. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO
Carla Kulczycki’s firefighting service awards and some family photos were set up in the foyer of the Alberni Athletic Hall for people to see. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO
Two members of the Maple Ridge Fire Department’s honour guard stand with their axes at the ready while members of Carla Kulczycki’s hockey team sit in their jerseys to honour their teammate. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO
Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire Department deputy chief Rick Geddes passes on fallen firefighter Carla Kulczycki’s helmet to an honour guard member at the beginning of Kulczycki’s celebration of life on Sunday, Jan. 13 in Port Alberni. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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