Seven students from George Elliot Secondary School recently completed a 15 week Junior Firefighter Program getting a unique glimpse into what a career in fire-fighting might look like.
Students received 50 hours of training from January to this month, ending this past Tuesday when the junior firefighters showed off their newly acquired skills for parents and onlookers at a live fire response demonstration before they received their program completion certificates.
“The hands on training was really interesting, I was surprised by how hot it is inside the suits,” said student Ryan Leighton, a program particicipant. “A lot of other programs have mostly book work. What we learned was really helpful in teaching us how to stay safe, even in forest fires.”
Leighton thought it would be great to have the program experience on his resume and he plans to apply to be a paid-on-call firefighter when he turns 19.
Fellow student Florian Maier, an international student from Germany, enjoyed the program, especially entering a burning house as part a training exercise with firefighters in Vernon.
“When we entered the burning house in Vernon, the visibility was limited in the house and it was remarkably hot,” he said. “I had the urge to leave the building immediately but I stayed inside of the house and I won against my own fear which was a really great feeling.”
When asked whether he will use the skills he learned in the LCFD program when he goes home to Germany he said the program will help in many ways.
“These things have helped me to be confident, mature and independent,” said Maier. “Our instructors always helped and supported us. In addition to their support they encouraged us when we made mistakes. I want to use my new skills to train as a firefighter in Germany and this program has definitely changed my career plans, I honestly think that being a firefighter is my career path.”
Chelsea Raine was the only female student in the LCFD program this term. She was asked what motivated her to enroll in the program.
“My dad is a volunteer firefighter and I wanted to test it out.,” said Raine. “I practiced with my dad so I could make sure I could lift everything.”
She noted that the hoses were pretty heavy, and she confronted her fear of heights by climbing to the top of the ladder. She enjoyed the live fire training and the auto extrication work.
“When I’m 19 I want to join the volunteer firefighters and get into career firefighting,” she said.
Doug Meraw, career and life program coordinator at George Elliot Secondary, noted the students involved in the LCFD program really loved it. To participate in the program students must be in grade 11 or 12 and have good grades. Rylan Carnegie graduated from GESS a few years ago after taking part in the Junior Firefighter Program and in still involved with LCFD as a paid on call firefighter. Carengie assisted the weekly team leader in the training this term.
Assistant fire chief Brent Penner said that the junior class had a unique opportunity in being invited to the live fire training in Vernon along with the 2013 LCFD recruits being introduced to their first interior live structure fire training. Regular training and practices were held every Tuesday night to teach basic firefighter skills such as hoisting equipment, ladders, fire streams, ventilation tactics, search and rescue, auto extrication, rope and knots, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), live car fire and dumpster fires.
Students also toured the regional dispatch centre to learn how a call taking and page system works as well as attending the Kelowna airport where they were exposed to different kinds of firefighting equipment and fire trucks as LCFD is routinely called out to the airport to assist with emergency incidents.
“This group of students really put a lot into it,” said fire chief Steve Windsor. “Congratulations to junior firefighters Glenford Downey, William Kelley, Ryan Leighton, Florian Maier, Nicholas
Novak, Chelsea Raine, and Tristan Ramsay for completing the 2013 program.”