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Sparking the flame for female firefighters

Lower Mainland camp introduces girls to the world of firefighting.
Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS Camp Ignite director and Maple Ridge firefighter Mary Foster wants to see more female career firefighters.

The 7th annual Camp Ignite is accepting applications from high school girls who are interested in a career in firefighting.

“We haven’t had anybody from the Maple Ridge area apply yet,” said camp director and Maple Ridge firefighter Mary Foster, adding that women are underrepresented in the industry.

“I am still the only [female firefighter] in Maple Ridge. The only career one,” adding that there are a couple coming through the recruit program now that she hopes find a spot in the next round of hiring.

Foster never considered firefighting as a career until she met a female firefighter.

“I already had a career at that point. I ended up doing a career switch. I was in finance before,” said Foster, who became a firefighter in her early 30s and got on full-time a couple of years later.

The free camp for female students will teach participants how to attach a hose to a fire hydrants and how to put on turnout gear.

There will be a day of technical rescue training, including a rope rescue, as well as first aid and CPR and a hazardous material training, during which the girls wear the hazmat suits.

They may also train with a live fire. Last year, participants got the chance to sit in a room with their equipment and watch a fire grow.

The girls will also learn about fitness, nutrition, health, teamwork and self defense.

“It’s very much a mentorship type of program where we are trying to encourage girls to say, ‘Hey, the sky’s the limit. You can do anything. If we can do these things, you can do these things.’”

Foster thinks that some young women might get hung up on the physical element of the career.

“Anybody can train to do this job physically. It just takes perseverance and a routine.”

When Foster decided she wanted to pursue firefighting, she trained one hour a day.

“Which doesn’t seem onorous, but when you are working it can be. But it can certainly be done.”

It’s important to be physically fit, with good cardio, she added.

“It’s important to be strong, but you don’t have to be over the top strong,” that as long as you can hold up a tool, it will do all of the work.

There are only 20 spots available for the regional camp.

Candidates are also required to write a 500-word essay about their personal hero.

The camp runs Aug. 10-13 and will take place at various locations across the Lower Mainland.

Transportation is free and will be provided by the camp along with lodging at Simon Fraser University and meals.

The final day of the camp will take place at the Justice Institute in Maple Ridge.

There is a little bit of work involved, admits Foster.

“What we like from our applicants is that they have maybe an interest in firefighting. Or they are not sure what they want to do, but that they want something different. They don’t want the office job,” she said.

• Applications can be found online at and dropped off at Fire Hall No. 1 at 22708 Brown Ave. in Maple Ridge. A video of the camp can be viewed on YouTube.

Contributed Previous participants at Camp Ignite.
Contributed Previous participants at Camp Ignite.

Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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