Saturday, September 5, 2009

Firefighters' memorial sneak peek

The 8th Annual Ottawa Firefighters Memorial Service (PDF) will be held next Friday, September 11, 2009 at City Hall, organized by the Ottawa Fire Fighters Community Foundation. At 11:30 a.m., there will be a march from the Museum of Nature, up Elgin Street, to Festival Plaza (soon to be renamed Marion Dewar Plaza).

This year, the ceremonies will be joined by the unveiling of the completed first phase of a new memorial to fallen firefighters. According to the Donor Wall Pledge Form (PDF), "The monument will be a permanent marker to honour Ottawa Fire Fighters who have fallen in the line of duty. It will also be the site for the annual Ottawa Fire Fighter Memorial Service." The campaign to build the monument dates back at least to December 2002/January 2003, when Ottawa's Emergency and Protective Services Committee supported and City Council contributed $1000 to the project. The concept and location of the monument was Approved by City Council in June 2006.

Back in May of this year, two bronze figures took temporary residence in the foyer of City Hall, accompanied by an easel depicting an artist's rendering of the memorial on which they would be installed:

Here's the memorial site, on the far end of Festival Plaza, shortly after breaking ground. NDHQ (National Defense Headquarters) is visible in the background.

On June 1st, they were preparing to pour the foundation block. Behind the fencing, you can see the last bit of the pathway that used to connect to Laurier Bridge.

Ten days later, the foundation had been laid, and the formwork was assembled for the walls of the monument. From this angle, the curve in the back wall is obvious, but looking at my later photos from other angles, it's very subtle. On the right in the background is the stage for the Festival Franco Ontarien 2009:

By late June, work had progressed noticably, as shown in the shot below. Note the sign on the left of the shot, a white circle on a square blue background. There are four of them around City Hall. I've been told they are a universal sign indicating a place of refuge, but I can't find any references on the Internet.

The concrete foundation had been laid, the red concrete walls were erected, and the floor slab was setting when this photo was taken.

A few days later, the floor slab was dry, and work was being done to install the electricals and the pipes for the water feature. You can see the underground pipes and cables stretching around the back of the monument. A concrete pillar contains pipes for electrical connections.

In this view from the other side, we can see some steel rebar sticking out from the foundation slab, presumably to attach to the second phase of the memorial. There are two more pillars in front of the monument. In the centre of the monument is a large concrete feature.

By mid-August, the undeground work was mostly done and the landscaping had begun. A new pathway was built with precast concrete pavers, winding around the monument. See what I mean about the back wall not looking curved from this angle? This monument plays some neat visual tricks that way; artist Louise Carota did a good job of designing it.

Here's a closeup on the pathway. A worker left a large drink container on the wall.

Back at the front, soil has been filled in around the columns with the electrical fittings. Cartier Square Drill Hall is in the background.

Inside the monument are three small concrete blocks sticking out from the floor. A precast concrete paver was laid next to one to judge the height of the blocks once the paving stones were added. You can see the drink container again on the back wall.

Here's the central plinth, with the sun coming down behind. Its shape is reminiscent of a firefighter's crest insignia. Again, some sample pavers were arranged around it.

By yesterday, there were just a few finishing touches left. The firefighter statues had been installed; the pavers had been laid; trees, sod, and flowers were planted; and some holes had been dug along the pathway for more decorative light standards.

The paver pattern inside the monument is pretty interesting. Varying patterns and designs of brick scatter out from the plinth in a radial pattern.

Here are the two statues. You can see lights on the floor of the plinth.

From behind, the ground and pathway follow the sloping back wall, so you can't really tell the wall's height.

The firefighter's hose will actually be functional: it will spray water out toward an archway, which will presumably be built in phase II of the project at a later date. I'm not sure how (or if) it will function until then.

For those interested in Ottawa firefighting history, have a look at this page on, which documents Francis Graham, the a member of Ottawa's first professional fire department, and the first Ottawa firefighter to die in the line of duty (in 1877). Captain John Graham, son of the previous, eventually became Fire Chief, and Station #10 (Old Ottawa South's "old firehall"), was named in Chief Graham's honour, before being decommissioned in 1974. It is the only heritage fire hall still in public hands and publicly accessible.

While you're waiting for the parade next Friday, you can also check out the website of the Ottawa Fire Fighters Community Foundation, who have a wall of honour listing Ottawa fire fighters who died in the line of duty.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad to hear the firefighter's hose is going to be functional!