Longtime friends Missy Schalin and Sean Annan believe Enderby Fire Department Captain Dan Botkin didn’t die a hero.
He was born one.
The pair eulogized Botkin, 25, killed Dec. 29 on-duty in a fire and explosion at Sperlich Log Constructon, during Botkin’s public funeral Thursday at the Enderby Arena, which included more than 1,000 firefighters and emergency services personnel from across Canada.
“He was Dan-tastic, as he would say, and for those of us who were blessed to know him couldn’t agree more,” said Schalin. “All of his friends and family vote him as an amazing person, husband, son, grandson, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin and friend, touching each of us in such a unique way, teaching us it’s not the years in your life but the life in your years.”
The uniformed firefighters and emergency personnel, which included RCMP in red serge, Search and Rescue, paramedics and volunteers, formed an honour guard at the Enderby Chamber of Commerce, and marched through the streets of Enderby under a mix of blue and grey skies, with a hint of sunshine, to the arena. The guard also included more than 30 fire trucks from various departments on hand for the funeral.
Botkin’s Canadian flag-draped coffin was brought to the arena aboard an Enderby Fire Department truck, with eight of his firefighting brethren carrying the coffin into the arena past Botkin’s beloved 1968 white Plymouth Valiant car, parked at the arena entrance.
More of his comrades formed the honour guard into the arena as everyone was piped in.
Enderby Fire Chief Kevin Alstad held Botkin’s No. 26 helmet on the front during the honour guard, then escorted Botkin’s wife Miranda – the newlyweds married Oct. 29 – to her seat at the front of the stage which was adorned with her husband’s fire jacket and pictures of Botkin.
Seven of Botkin’s friends and family, dressed in matching black suits and shirts with pink ties – Botkin loved pink, including wanting to paint his Valiant that colour – served as pallbearers and brought the coffin onto the stage.
“I have never heard Dan say one bad word about anybody,” said Alstad. “Captain Dan always encouraged other members to get involved with the fire hall. He was a solid, reliable person one could trust with his own life. He will be dearly missed by members of this department, his family and his friends and the whole emergency service.”
While Alstad, Schalin and Annan eulogized their friend and colleague, a number of dignitaries were present to express their condolences.
Among them were Enderby Mayor Howie Cyr, B.C. Fire Commissioner Rebecca Denlinger, Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster and, representing the Queen, B.C. Lt.-Gov. The Honourable Steven Point, a man used to giving speeches.
“On this day, words fail me,” said Point. “How do you express the uprising of emotions? How do you capture in words the feelings that you have? It’s not possible I think. I’d like to thank all of you for coming, all of you ladies and gentlemen that came from all over the province to demonstrate your support.
“Our great province would be nothing without the kind of dedication and service that we receive from gentlemen like Dan Botkin, who give up their time and energy in community service without asking for anything, knowing full well the danger and life-threatening situations that may arise.”
There were 1,000 chairs set up on the floor of the Enderby Arena, taken up by family and friends, while the stands were filled to capacity with members of the public, many of whom were in their seats an hour before the start of the 11 a.m. service.
Several hundred citizens also lined the honour guard route and those that couldn’t get into the arena gathered at the facility’s north end outside, braving a whipping wind to listen to the ceremony broadcast on speakers.
Among them was Jim Newman of Grindrod, whose nephew is a firefighter who served with Botkin.
“I’m here to support my nephew and his firefighter brothers and sisters,” said Newman, a former volunteer firefighter in Alberta.
“The honour guard was amazing. It was a beautiful display of professionalism. I was impressed by the number of firefighters that showed up from across the province and beyond. It was a great display of camaraderie by firefighters as a whole. I know the community appreciates the sacrifices these guys make.”
Botkin, who made the ultimate sacrifice serving his community, was given a three-ring bell ceremony as the service ended, a firefighting tradition.
Firefighters then formed another honour guard along Kate Street in front of the arena, two rows deep on both sides of the road that stretched onto Howard Avenue, and saluted Botkin as he was driven by in a hearse.
Botkin was laid to rest in the Enderby Cemetery.