Muskoday First Nation is remembering longtime firefighter Capt. Randy Bair, who died of cancer last week.

Bair, also a safety officer, was with the Muskoday Volunteer Fire Department for more than 25 years. He also worked for Saskatchewan First Nations Emergency Management and the Prince Albert Grand Council Search, Rescue and Recovery team.

To Muskoday Fire Chief Troy Bear, he was more than a coworker — Bair was his brother-in-law, friend and mentor.

“He was a leader. He taught me how to conduct myself during calls, trained me through every aspect of the fire department. He was very knowledgeable,” he said.

He credited Bair for helping him make his way to the chief position, which he started in November. Bair was diagnosed with cancer in October and died on Thursday at 61 years old.

“He was just getting started. He really wanted to go through not only First Nation communities, but non-First Nation communities and show the importance of educating our schools, the public about fire safety in homes. Have a plan to get out, make sure smoke alarms, CO (carbon monoxide) detectors are working.”

When it came to his search and rescue work, Bair didn’t quit, he said: “He made sure that all of the family members that were missing weren’t just a number or a statistic, he made them feel like they mattered.”

Bear said he was exposed to cancer through firefighting.

“A lot of the calls that we go to, vehicle fires, structure fires, chemical-related, they all take a toll on a firefighter’s career,” he said.

“It takes a special kind of person to put yourself through that – there’s a lot of physical and mental stress during and years after the calls.”

He said there’s been a lot of progress in implementing precautions. After every call, he said, firefighters decontaminate all of their equipment and gear.

Bear said this process is becoming more prevalent after seeing the health risks in long-term firefighters.

Bair was also a close friend of Muskoday Chief Herman Crain.

“He was always recognized as a leader and role model in our community,” said Crain in a news release.

“We will remember him as a hero and mentor in his role responding to emergency situations, many times putting his life on the line and helping our members in dire situations.”

After his cancer diagnosis, Saskatchewan First Nations Emergency Management members set up a T-shirt fundraiser for Bair. In December, they presented him with a starblanket for his service.

Bair also received a protective services medal in 2019 from Lieutenant Governor Russell Mirasty.

Michelle Vandevord, also a firefighter, is encouraging donations for Bair’s kids — three of which depended on their dad. Donations can be sent to mvandevord@gmail.com. She said the money is going towards vehicles and other basic needs. Two of his seven kids are currently in the Cadet program, following in Bair’s footsteps.