Extinguishing car fires, rappelling down buildings, or escaping from smoke-filled rooms is not everybody’s cup of tea.
But that is exactly what a group of young women from across the Lower Mainland got to do this past weekend as part of Camp Ignite, a two-day firefighting educational camp to inspire more women to enter the profession.
Emily Jakeway of Maple Ridge was one of the successful applicants to be sponsored by Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue.
This year, the camp was held over two days instead of the usual four, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the first day the girls checked into the Vancouver Fire Training Centre at 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 14, and were put into five cohorts of six participants each. In Jakeway’s cohort the girls were from Pitt Meadows, Mission, and Port Coquitlam.
Then they participated in different stations about an hour in length.
First they learned how to use fire hoses and then they had to put out a car fire while hooked up to a self-contained breathing apparatus. Next was learning how to do an auto extraction where each group had to use the jaws of life to completely rip the door off of a vehicle. The girls learned how to roll and unroll hoses and hook the hose up to a fire hydrant. Then they had to do a self rescue in an entanglement situation.
“They put the self contained breathing apparatuses on our head but it was blacked out so we couldn’t see anything and they had us simulate crawling through wires and getting tangled and practise how you would get out of that. How you stay low and stay close to walls so you know where you are,” explained Jakeway.
They also learned how to turn off the breathing machines, how to put them away and store them.
Jakeway enjoyed putting out the car fire and found it not only challenging but fun and exciting.
“Some of the air bags exploded, so there were some things that you wouldn’t have expected and it was just cool because even though it was a controlled fire, it was interesting to see how the car totally burned and all the paint was burning off,” she described.
And, added Jakeway, their instructors gave them clear instructions and helped them through the exercise.
“That’s where my team really learned to work together and support each other,” she said.
Day two was at the District of North Vancouver Training Centre. First up was a highline and mechanical exercise where the girls had to climb a five storey building, climb over a railing, and used a rope line to rappel down. Then there was an obstacle and fitness course where they ran up four storeys in a building with their gear on and carrying a fire hose over their shoulder. Then they had to pull a rope that was attached to another hose up to the window before lowering it again and then running down the stairs in relay-style competition.
The girls also had an opportunity to use the controls inside a fire truck to raise and lower the ladder, and were taught where to find the various stored axes, crow bars, and oxygen tanks. They learned how to communicate with teammates in a smoke filled room where they followed a wall in and a hose back out.
“So practising relying on your teammates to communicate, looking for a person, and then getting out together,” explained Jakeway.
They learned about fire extinguishers, how to check the dates, and make sure they are full and properly maintained. And they also learned about forest fires, what causes them, and how to control and fight them.
At the end Jakeway and the rest of the women received completion certificates.
After having this experience Jakeway is more serious about possibly making firefighting a career choice. She is planning to do the Youth Academy with the Maple Ridge Fire Department through SD42.
Jakeway enjoyed being surrounded by career female firefighters and learning from them. She thought Camp Ignite was a great first step to learn about the occupation.
Camp Ignite is open to girls in Grades 11-12, from the ages of 15-18, who live in the province. The camp not only offers an introduction to the world of firefighting, but participants also learn about fitness, nutrition, health and teamwork.
Camp Ignite is a not-for-profit society that strives to keep the camp affordable and accessible to those who are interested.
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