Camp Ignite director and Maple Ridge firefighter Mary Foster wants to see more female career firefighters. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

Camp Ignite director and Maple Ridge firefighter Mary Foster wants to see more female career firefighters. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

Pitt Meadows teens take on Camp Ignite

Camp Ignite is a firefighting mentorship camp for young women 16-18 years old.

  • Aug. 11, 2018 12:00 p.m.

Camp Ignite is teaching B.C. girls how to fight fires from Aug. 9-12 at various fire stations throughout the Lower Mainland.

Two teens from Pitt Meadows, Brooke Dyke and Emma Larsen, were selected to participate in this year’s camp.

The girls have various reasons for wanting the experience.

“Firefighting is a [career] option, but, in general, I just want to help people,” said Dyke.

As for Larsen, she said the camp has confirmed her desire to be a firefighter.

“Camp Ignite is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that I’m privileged to go to because it’s a career path I’m looking into, and to experience what these men and women do made me open my eyes.”

Dyke is sponsored by the Maple Ridge Fire Department and Larsen is sponsored by the Pitt Meadows Fire Department. The departments pay for camp fees and gear.

Mary Foster, a Maple Ridge firefighter and camp director, said the girls’ learn a variety of tasks, from putting on gear, to using the jaws of life and hose-handling.

On Day 2 of camp, Larsen said she’s been pushed out of her comfort zone, but has adjusted.

“You’re pushed out of your comfort zone, and do a lot of team building and challenges you wouldn’t do in day-to day-life. It’s definitely something you need to get used to.”

Dyke added that the camp gives the opportunity to try things according to one’s own comfort level.

“The biggest thing is believing in yourself. What they put out for you, you want to try everything. But you do whatever is comfortable.”

Foster said the camp is a mentorship program to show girls’ they can do anything.

“You can’t be what you can’t see. For the most part, women don’t think about being a firefighter because they never see women firefighters. We’re still about four per cent of the force.”

Foster explained the camp doesn’t only cater to girls’ that are set on being firefighters — it’s a mentorship program to build confidence and camaraderie.

“It’s really important for them to be able to see this is an option for them. We don’t treat it as a recruiting tool. It’s based on mentorship — you can do anything. In learning to rappel, putting on a hazmat suit — all of those test your confidence and allow you to do those things in a safe environment and overcome fears.”

So far, Dyke and Larsen agreed their favorite activity at camp has been the blackout drill: a challenge that gives the girls the experience to be in full gear, blindfolded, on an air-tank and to follow a hose.

The last day of camp takes place at the Justice Institute of British Columbia Maple Ridge campus.