A fallen friend, leader and hero

Facing a fire is intimidating, says Paul Dabbs. The 64-year-old volunteer firefighter remembers the first one he was called to. But knowing that his friend and fire chief Kurt Gantner was there made it much easier...

Facing a fire is intimidating, says Paul Dabbs.

The 64-year-old volunteer firefighter remembers the first one he was called to.

But knowing that his friend and fire chief Kurt Gantner was there made it much easier, said Dabbs.

The two men, who moved with their wives into the community of Tagish at about the same time, have fought fires together for the past six years.

On Monday night, they were called to another major blaze.

It would be the last one they fought together.

Early Tuesday morning, the fire was finally doused after the house had been reduced to ashes.

After some sleep, Gantner took some family members to the airport and started heading to his meeting with the fire marshal, said Dabbs.

He never made it.

The fire department’s modified pickup sped off the road and into the brush only one kilometre from the fire hall. Gantner, 49, was the only one in the vehicle.

Autopsy results are expected later today, the territory’s corner said.

But knowing the exact cause of his death doesn’t really matter, said Dabbs.

Figuring out how to continue after the loss of such an integral part of the community is going to be hard.

“We had great faith in him, great confidence in him and it made a huge difference to us,” said Dabbs. “In a small community, we just don’t have that many people who could do the things he was able to do. So, to fill the void that he’s going to leave, in that sense, it’s going to be very difficult.”

“Kurt was a true community hero,” Yukon fire marshal Dennis Berry said in a release Wednesday.

But Gantner meant more to the community than just the services he provided, said Dabbs.

The two men knew and worked with each other in many different ways.

Not only were they personal friends and fellow firefighters, they also served on the town’s advisory board together.

Dabbs and his wife Judy also worked with Gantner and his wife Jutta for the volunteer emergency services in the community.

The Gantners came as a team, said Dabbs.

“When we talk here, we rarely say ‘Kurt’ or ‘Jutta,’ we almost always say ‘Kurt and Jutta,’” he said.

They were extraordinarily community minded, Dabbs added.

While Gantner served as a firefighter for many years in Germany, the couple also owned their own business there.

When they came to the Yukon, they established the Tagish Store Cafe Motel and RV park.

It is an obvious community hub – and was from the moment the couple opened its doors, said Dabbs.

When he and Judy were building their home and didn’t have heat or water yet, Dabbs would walk over for lunch everyday.

It was the beginning of their friendship, he said.

“We simply looked forward to going to see him,” said Dabbs.

A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, August 30 at 1 p.m. at the Tagish fire hall.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Copper Ridge resident clears their driveway after a massive over night snowfall in Whitehorse on Nov. 2, 2020. Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the Whitehorse and Haines Junction areas for Jan. 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Winter storm warning for Haines Junction and Whitehorse

Environment Canada says the storm will develop Monday and last until Tuesday

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

Most Read