A newlywed. An outdoorsman. Always smiling. And a great firefighter who wanted to make battling blazes a full-time profession.
Tributes are pouring in for Enderby volunteer firefighter Dan Botkin, 25, killed Thursday morning on duty.
Botkin, a six-year member of the local department, and recently named the department’s training officer and captain, was among 14 firefighters controlling a fire that broke out at around 4 a.m. at Sperlich Log Construction in the 200-block of Brickyard Road in Enderby.
The firefighters had been on the scene for just over an hour and appeared to be in the mop-up stage when an explosion in a shed attached to the building occurred. Botkin was close to the blast and it took his life.
“Dan was hard-working, always had a smile on his face,” said Enderby fire chief Kevin Alstad. “He was willing to do just about anything you’d ask him to do. As a person, you couldn’t find a better guy.
“We have lost a valuable member who was volunteering his time to make our community safer, and he has given his life doing it.”
Married in October, Botkin was planning to go to Fort St. John in January to get more experience firefighting.
“He talked in the last while of expanding to the point where he could get on full-time at a hall,” said Enderby deputy chief Travis Horsman, fighting back tears. “He was going to work for a company there firefighting on the rigs. He was hoping to be able to take that time and study up and take his courses.”
The fatality is believed to be the first in the Enderby department’s history. The last firefighter killed on the job in B.C. was in 2004.
Another Enderby volunteer was injured after the blast. He was treated on-scene and taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
“This tragic death has affected all of our personnel,” said Alstad. “I’m very proud of my men who were on the scene. Even though we suffered a tragic loss, we will continue to do the job we have been trained for, and will continue to put the fires out.”
Enderby Mayor Howie Cyr, a former RCMP officer, said the city will make sure the needs of Botkin’s family, and the needs of the fire department members and their families, will be met in the aftermath of the tragedy.
“I know from experience when you go out and answer that call in the middle of the night you hope to return to your family,” said Cyr. “We will commit our city resources to do whatever we can so that all of the needs are met. We are dedicated to that end.”
The cause of the fire and subsequent explosion have not been determined.
The fire commissioner’s officer, coroner and WorkSafe B.C. are investigating the incident.
Premier Christy Clark was saddened to hear of Botkin’s death on-duty.
“This is a heartbreaking day for his family, his community, and indeed all firefighters throughout the province,” said Clark, Thursday.
Flags are flying at half-mast at the Vernon and Coldstream fire halls to honour Botkin, and the BX-Swan Lake department has expressed condolences on its sign outside the hall.