The firefighter who died last week in British Columbia has been identified as Kelowna’s Zak Muise.
In an online obituary and a tribute by the firefighting contractor he worked for, Big Cat Wildfire shared a photo of Muise in his uniform and called him a “vital member” of one of its crews.
The 25-year-old died Friday, July 29 as he helped battle the massive Donnie Creek wildfire in northeastern B.C. RCMP have said he was killed when his heavy-duty ATV rolled over a steep drop on a gravel road in a remote area about 150 kilometres north of Fort St. John.
Muise is from Ontario and attended Fleming College in Peterborough, Ont, where he studied to be a carpentry technician. In 2021, he moved to Kelowna and would take part in local half marathons and spend time up at Big White Ski Resort.
It was in 2022 when he changed his career path to become a firefighter.
A brief online obituary posted on the website of a Waterford, Ont., funeral home in the name of his family says Muise is survived by his parents and five older siblings. It says Muise was “loved by many,” and the family is grateful to all firefighters and other first responders “who are still fighting.”
It says a funeral is scheduled for later this month in Simcoe, Ont., and that a public memorial in B.C. is also being planned.
A fundraiser for the Canadian Critical Incident Stress Foundation has been launched in Muise’s honour.
The organization provides support, education and training for first responders, veterans and their families and runs a camp for families and children coping with loss.
Muise was a contracted firefighter working to fight the nearly 6,000-square-kilometre Donnie Creek blaze in the province’s northeast — the biggest wildfire in B.C.’s history.
Muise’s Instagram page shows him enjoying time outdoors with family and friends, camping, snowboarding and golfing. Muise is the fourth Canadian firefighter to die this year fighting wildfires, and the second to die in B.C.
On July 13, 19-year-old Devyn Gale died while combating a wildfire near her hometown of Revelstoke, B.C., after she was struck by a falling tree.
“Our hearts go out to all the families of fallen firefighters,” Muise’s obituary says.
—with a file from Jordy Cunningham