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Fire engines lead procession for fallen wildland firefighter

Dozens of firefighters gathered at a funeral home in Chilliwack for a sombre ceremony Saturday morning, before climbing aboard several fire trucks and leading a funeral procession for Blain Sonnenberg.

He was one of the four wildland firefighters who died in a highway crash early Tuesday morning as they made their way home from a two-week deployment on the front lines of the most destructive wildfire season in British Columbia history.

Jaxson Billyboy, Kenneth Patrick and a fourth man were also killed when their pickup collided with a semi-truck.

"It just really was heart-wrenching. Heart-wrenching and sorrowful," said Lyliane Lafaut, who didn't know any of the four personally, but organized a Saturday evening memorial in Chase, where she lives.

She told CTV News she had been placed on evacuation alert earlier this summer and has a great appreciation for the work firefighters did to gain the upper hand on the fire threatening her home.

"I was standing on my back balcony here and I could see the flames," she said. "It's scary, scary. So scary."

Back in Chilliwack, Indigenous drummers and singers lined the outside of the funeral chapel as Sonnenberg's casket was carried to a vehicle for the procession to his final resting place on the Sts'ailes First Nation near Agassiz.

The four firefighters killed in the crash all worked for Tomahawk Ventures, a private firefighting company.

The youngest, Billyboy, was just 19 and had graduated high school in June.

In total, six wildland firefighters have died in B.C. so far this season.

"They go into the bush, and each time they step into these fire zones, they are risking their lives," said Lafaut. Top Stories

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