A man wearing a formal black uniform stands slightly turned, smiling at the camera, the Ottawa and Canada flags to his left.
Ottawa firefighter Ryan Hill, 37, passed away last month after a year-long battle with brain cancer. Photo by Ottawa Fire Service.

January 2022 is the second annual firefighter cancer awareness month, and members of Ottawa Fire Services are mourning the recent loss of one of their own to the disease.

First Class Ottawa Firefighter Ryan Hill, a member of Ottawa Fire Services for 10 years, passed away on Dec. 20. Hill had celebrated his 37th birthday the day before at the Civic Hospital, where he died surrounded by loved ones.

Hill worked at Station 31 for eight years before being transferred to Station 13, Platoon A, where he is remembered by colleagues for his service, dedication and friendship, according to his obituary.

Hill was diagnosed with brain cancer on Dec. 28, 2020, nearly a year before his death.

Fellow firefighter, Martin Herdé, worked alongside Hill for many years. He remembers Hill as both a friend and as his personal hero.

“He was proud of his job,” says Herdé. “He was proud to be a dad. He was proud to be a husband. He would give anything for his family. And also on the job, too.”

Hill was a father to two four-year-old twin boys, and husband to his wife Patricia, who Herdé says was “the love of his life.”

Herdé says Hill was the kind of person who was always making people laugh.

“He always had a little smirk,” says Herdé. “His grin was always greeting and he always joked around and laughed, and then when it’s time to serious, he got serious.”

Hill had a big sweet tooth, according to Herdé, who recalls his friend’s fondness of ice cream.

“He loved ice cream,” says Herdé. “And it’s a big tradition for the fire department to have a coffee mug of ice cream—not a bowl or anything, but a coffee mug. And he would never have a coffee mug, he’d just take a spoonful. And then he’d take a walk around the station, slowly eating his ice cream. He’d always say, ‘‘I’m just regulating how much ice cream I’m eating.’ And then by the end of the day, I’d see like 10 spoons in the sink.”

Even in the hospital, as he endured five surgeries and numerous rounds of radiation therapy, Hill was able to find joy in the small things. Herdé says Hill always had a chocolate stash, and he favoured Mr. Big bars.

Hill was a fan of 90s grunge music, which he and Herdé would often listen to while working out. He was also an avid fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a sports player himself.

“He used to put his grunge music on in the gym, and he’d be running like a fiend,” says Herdé. “And we’d be working out and I would always make fun of his music. He was a horrific hockey player, but he was always the first guy to bring beer in the dressing room… A hundred per cent, giving [his] all on the ice and off the ice.”

Herdé says Hill will be honoured along with his fellow fallen firefighters in an annual memorial service in September.

Cancer deaths among firefighters are not rare occurrences. In fact, according to a 2018 study published by the Injury Research and Prevention Unit at the University of British Columbia, cancer deaths in Canadian firefighters represent 86 per cent of all occupational deaths in the industry, making it the leading cause of death for firefighters.

In 2017, a study from the University of Ottawa found that firefighters absorb harmful chemicals through their skin. Researchers collected skin and urine samples from career firefighters, and found they contained three to five times more than the average amount of nuclear pollutants, called “PAH metabolites.”

Herdé, who has been a firefighter for 23 years and has worked for Ottawa Fire Services for 19, says he has lost many colleagues to cancers and other occupational dangers in the past.

“We see more deaths than most people around,” says Herdé. “And even though it’s been a long time, I’m a strong believer that they’re never forgotten.”

Hill’s family has set up an online tribute page in his memory, and they are asking anyone who would like to lend their support to make a donation to the Ottawa Firefighters Support Fund (Ottawa Retired Firefighters Association), or to Team Morgan, a charity supporting children’s cancer research.

Listen to the CHUO interview with Martin Herdé below: 



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Seven Ottawa firefighters among those honoured at annual ceremony remembering the fallen

Ottawa Citizen

Author of the article:Taylor Blewett
Publishing date:Sep 14, 2020

OTTAWA — September 13, 2020 — The Canadian Firefighters Annual Memorial Ceremony was held in a small in person ceremony that was streamed virtually from the Canadian Firefighters Memorial, Sunday, September 13, 2020

William Driscoll. Maynard McEwan. Robert McVeity. Gordon Paquette. Ted Tokaryk. Richard Walker. Grant Wilson.

In a small group, in the rain, a contingent of local firefighters and representatives from the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation gathered on LeBreton Flats on Sunday for a pandemic version of the annual ceremony honouring lives lost in the line of duty.

Seven Ottawa firefighters among those honoured at annual ceremony remembering the fallen

The names of seven Ottawa firefighters will be engraved on the memorial wall at the downtown monument to Canadian firefighters, along with 69 others from across the country. Some were active duty firefighters when they died, but the majority are considered legacy deaths – those who died, in retirement, from rare forms of cancer or other designated work-related illnesses. The seven Ottawa names all fall under the legacy category.

Continued …


Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation will conduct a solemn service to honour and remember all those firefighters that have given their lives in service to Canadians.

Join a small contingent of Foundation and local firefighters as we honour, virtually, those that have been engraved on the Canadian Firefighter Memorial. The ceremony will be live streamed (sponsored by M&L Supply) on the 13th of September at 1100 hours EST on the Foundation’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CFFF.FCPMS. We respectfully ask that the ceremony not be attended by those close to the memorial site in order to respect government guidelines during the pandemic.



En raison de la pandémie actuelle, la Fondation canadienne des pompiers morts en service procédera en toute dignité à une simple cérémonie commémorative qui verra à rendre Hommage à tous les pompiers qui ont fait l’ultime sacrifice au service des Canadiens et Canadiennes et à perpétuer leur Souvenir.

Joignez-vous en ligne, de façon virtuelle, à un petit groupe de pompiers de la Fondation et de la région pour honorer ceux et celles dont le nom a été gravé sur le Monument aux pompiers canadiens (MPC). La cérémonie sera retransmise en direct (commanditée par M&L Supply) le dimanche 13 septembre, à 11 h (HNE), sur la page Facebook de la Fondation à l’adresse https://www.facebook.com/CFFF.FCPMS. Nous demandons respectueusement aux personnes qui se trouvent dans la région immédiate du site du MPC de ne pas assister à la cérémonie afin de respecter les consignes sanitaires du gouvernement en temps de pandémie.