A sombre ceremony outside Calgary City Hall Tuesday paid tribute to the 53 fallen members of the Calgary Fire Department, who died while on duty or as a result of an illness related to their service. 

This year, six people were added to the list, their names read one by one at the memorial at the Police Officers and Firefighters Tribute Plaza, with families of the fallen in attendance along with current fire fighters.

“For any firefighter one of the toughest things is losing someone in the line of duty,” said Calgary Fire Chief Steve Dongworth. “Today is about making sure we honour our commitment never to forget the sacrifies of these people, the sacrifice to our organization as well as of course to the community that we serve.”

Of the 53 firefighters memorialized, 44 lost their lives due to illnesses since 1985.

“We have to remember that public service is a tough job and sometimes it can be a dangerous job and for the women and men that go into firefighting not only can you lose your life in the line of duty but you can also lose your life years later because of workplace acquired cancer,” said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

“There’s just a lot of cancers and presumptive cancers that are going on that affect our members and our returned members,” said Mike Henson, President of the Calgary Firefighters Association. “Sometimes those members succumb to those diseases.”

 Henson said firefighters have an annual wellness checkup with a doctor and said a year ago, two psychologists were also made available.

“I think the membership is responding well to going and seeing professionals and talking to them about how does it feel to do this job day after day, call after call and it's just an additional support,” said Henson.

The fire chief said training and safety are top priorities for the service, but more needs to be done to talk about mental health issues, especially on World Suicide Prevention Day, marked on Tuesday.