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Late firefighter Billy Wilkins honoured with plaque at city park

'He would be happy to have all of this attention, even 20 years later. I think it’s nice that people still want to honour him and remember him,' says Wilkins' fiancee

Billy Wilkins was honoured this afternoon at the city park which bears his name.

Barrie Fire and Emergency Service hosted a recognition ceremony Friday to honour William Jonathan ‘Billy’ Wilkins, the namesake of Wilkins Park on Crimson Ridge Road in the city's south end.

Barrie Firefighter No. 67 was a third-class firefighter and training facilitator when he died in the line of duty on May 27, 2002. Wilkins was 32 years old.

“That day will be remembered as one of the saddest days in our history,” Barrie Fire Chief Cory Mainprize said at the ceremony.

“Bill’s legacy is one of the reminders of the danger of our jobs,” said Dan Speight, a city firefighter representing the Barrie Professional Firefighters Association.

On the morning of Monday, May 27, 2002, Wilkins went to a house fire in the city’s northwest end with his platoon, for a call at 12 Sinclair Ct., near Anne and Livingstone streets.

Shortly after 10:42 a.m., Wilkins would tragically become the city’s fourth firefighter to die in the line of duty, and the first in 54 years. 

Wilkins was overwhelmed by smoke in the basement of the Sinclair Court home and crews were unable to find him.

Wilkins was engaged to be married when he died.

Julie Brucato, his fiancee, spoke at Friday’s ceremony on a cool, blustery day with a sprinkle of rain. She unveiled the plaque in his honour.

“He would be happy to have all of this attention, even 20 years later,” she said. “I think it’s nice that people still want to honour him and remember him.”

Rich Bullis, a friend of Wilkins, lent a little perspective to the ceremony.

“There’s a saying we all die twice, when we pass on and when it’s the last time our name is ever mentioned,” Bullis said. “That people still tell his story keeps his memory alive.”

Bullis remembers Wilkins as a good friend whom he played cards and softball with, but who also had a university degree in English. 

“He was an accomplished guy, a fitness fanatic… which was a real influence on me, too.”

“It’s clear from the gathering today that he is remembered and missed,” said Deputy Mayor Barry Ward, as a couple of dozen people gathered in Wilkins Park.

There’s also a special stone resting among trees and flowers at Station No. 3 on Big Bay Point Road in Barrie’s south end that has been dedicated to Wilkins' memory. 

Its inscription reads: “In memory of William Jonathan 'Billy' Wilkins. May 27, 2002. Who gave the supreme sacrifice serving the citizens of Barrie.”

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Bob Bruton

About the Author: Bob Bruton

Bob Bruton is a full-time BarrieToday reporter who covers politics and city hall.
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