WAVERLEY: Skyler Blackie is being remembered as a young, eager and up-and-coming firefighter by his former colleagues at Station 45 in Fall River and friends he met when he became a career firefighter in Truro.
Blackie passed away March 20 as a result of his injuries from a training incident on March 9. It occurred at the N.S. Fire School in Waverley. Skyler had signed up to be an organ donor, so as his obituary says “his legacy and strength will live on in others.”
A regimental funeral service in Skyler’s memory is scheduled for March 30, at Colchester Legion Stadium in Truro.
Stephanie Pentland, a volunteer at Station 45 in Fall River, has fond memories of Skyler.
“My son Kieran was a shy kid and was going to WJCC when Skyler was there,” said Pentland. “Kieran wouldn’t get out the car. Everyday he was crying.
“Skyler would wait for me to show up and put Kieran on his back and piggy back him around. When I showed up to get him at the end of the day, Skyler still had him on his back.”
He had left a lasting impression on Kieran, one Pentland wants Skyler’s parents to know.
“Kieran would say ‘Mom, Skyler is my best friend,’” she said. “Those are the things as a parent I want his parents to know.”
The Town of Truro made a post on their Facebook Page on March 20 saying Skyler will be missed by all who he touched.
“Truro has lost a young, outgoing, charismatic man who will be missed deeply by his wife, his family, his family of firefighters, his friends and co-workers,” the post said.
Scott Squires of Truro said he didn’t know Blackie very long.
“The impression he left with me will last the rest of my life,” said Squires in a tweet. “He always took time to say hello and he was so excited and thrilled to be a firefighter.”
Daniel MacKenzie of Fall River remembers when he was a Junior Leader and camper at the Windsor Junction Community Centre, and Skyler was a counsellor there.
“He was always one of everyone’s favourite among parents and kids,” said MacKenzie. “A memory of mine that I will never forget was when “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry first came out and it was on the radio. Skyler was the first one and the loudest to start singing it.
“He was the funniest guy around when it came to pulling pranks.”
In his time as a lifeguard at the WJCC, his and his fellow lifeguards were recognized for their efforts in a fatal medical emergency in 2008. They were recognized by the Nova Scotia House of Assembly for showing remarkable organization, courage, and skill.
“We are heartbroken for his family and friends over this tragic loss,” the WJCC posted on their FB page on March 21.
In his obituary, it says he was born in Kingston, Ont., and graduated from Lockview High in 2009. He was a certified life guard and received a medal for his life saving efforts. He began his career as a firefighter with Truro Fire Service on October 1, 2013.
Blackie, 28, was “charismatic, funny, outgoing and a kind individual who touched everybody’s heart.”
“As lead of the charitable committee for the fire hall, he generously shared his efforts to raise awareness and funds for Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer, participating yearly in “Movember,” the obituary said. “Although Skyler had a passion for firefighting and fitness, his passion and love for Erin and building a life with her was immeasurable.”
Skyler’s K9 companion, Bella, held a special place in his heart.
In a statement issued by Jessica Gillis, Skyler’s sister on behalf of the family, they thanked everyone for their support during this difficult time.
“On behalf of the Blackie family, we would like to thank the Truro and Halifax fire services for their support during this challenging time,” the statement reads. “We also are so appreciative of the professional care Skyler received from the ICU nurses, doctors, and staff at the QEII Health Sciences Centre – Halifax Infirmary Site.
“We want to also thank the community at large for their prayers and support; they have not gone unnoticed.”
Dave Lovett was the volunteer fire chief at Station 45 when Skyler stopped in to join up back in April 2009. He recalls that day like it was yesterday.
“When Skyler joined Stn. 45 he was young and eager to be on the first out truck,” Lovett told The Laker. “I knew right away I had an up and coming star. It was very rare that Skyler ever missed a Tuesday training session. He was committed to the community he grew up in and he wanted to help.
Lovett said Skyler quickly gained his trust.
“I could see the spark. He was a very smart and talented young man,” he said. “He started talking about wanting to be a career firefighter, and I knew he could do it. He eventually made Lieutenant within the department. He began leading some training nights and teaching what he had learned to the newer folks. You would see him off in the corner teaching the more junior folks his way of doing a task.”
He recalled when the department held car washes to raise money for certain charities in the community.
“We would say what can we do to get more cars in,” he said. “There goes Skyler, taking is jacket off, then his shirt and nothing on but his bunker pants and boots. He said, “I will head down to the corner by the Tim Hortons and wave cars up road to the station. His smile definitely did that.”
Lovett said that Skyler became one of the most valued firefighters that Station 45 ever had.
“He was there, right behind you, every step of the way and no matter what, he had your back and you could trust that if this went south, he could get you out,” he said. “A well liked and trusted individual. “
He said when Skyler’s younger brother Errison also joined the department, he was so proud to have him there.
“He was so proud to be there when Errison graduated from his Level 1 training,” said Lovett. “The bond was tight and was only going to get stronger.”
Lovett said firefighting is a brother/sister hood and they’re a family. He knew when Skyler said he was applying to be a career firefighter with fellow Stn. 45 volunteer Tom Malone, he would be picked up quickly. Both landed with Truro Fire, where a former Stn. 45 chief, Blois Currie, is chief.
“I must say I was secretly disappointed (he went to Truro), but only because we were loosing Skyler,” said Lovett. “I counted on him more than he ever knew. He made me proud.”
He said both he and Chief Currie felt they helped people get to where they wanted to be but in fact, in Skyler’s case, nothing was going to stop him.
“He got himself there,” said Lovett. “His infectious smile and charming personality will be missed greatly from his friends, his brothers and sisters of the fire service, and every community he touched.”
“Skyler was a true friend first, and a well accomplished firefighter second.”