Submitted by Creston Fire Rescue
Women currently make up about four per cent of the fire service in Canada, but a Vancouver-based camp for aspiring female firefighters is trying to change that.
Camp Ignite provides strong role models to empower young women to challenge themselves and learn new skills in a unique team environment.
The curriculum is tailored to show young women the possibility of a career in the trades and other non-traditional roles, with a focus on the firefighting profession.
“When I initially reached out to Camp Ignite, I was hopeful that they would share some information of the camp so we could organize and run a similar event in Creston,” said Assistant Fire Chief Laura Dodman, of Creston Fire Rescue (CFR).
“I was overwhelmed with the response by the organizers, so giving and willing to share.”
Her hope is to run an event in Creston for young women in the Kootenays and surrounding areas that may not be able to travel the distance to Vancouver.
“Camp Ignite was a great experience and one I would recommend for any female aspiring to be a firefighter or looking into non-traditional roles as a career,” said Dodman.
On Aug. 14 and 15, she served as one of 30 mentors in Vancouver to help run through drills and instruct at different stations.
A total of 34 girls in Grades 11 and 12 (from ages 15 to 18) attended camp. Each girl was sponsored in part by their local department.
Junior Firefighter Jessica Mickelson, a Creston local, was sponsored by the Creston Firefighters Society.
“Some of these girls are working towards a career in the fire service, much like some of our local Work Experience Program firefighters, and some are past participants wanting to help out,” Dodman said.
“One awesome lady, Captain Leah Kosolofski came all the way from Winnipeg Airport Fire to help out and inspire these young women. Firefighters, both male and female, from Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver helped with instruction and logistic at the facilities each day, and they did an amazing job.”
On the first day of Camp Ignite, Dodman led her cohort through six different sessions including instruction on a self-contained breathing apparatus, firefighter entanglement and self rescue, a live vehicle fire, fire hose and hydrant demonstrations, as well as vehicle extrication (where they totally cut apart a car using hydraulic and conventional hand tools).
The second day was adrenaline driven for both the participants and organizers with more training sessions on fire extinguishers, forcible entry, a smoke-filled building, a fire fit course, and an aerial ladder and zip line.
The girls also listened to presentations on public education, dispatching, small tools and equipment, and wildland firefighting
“I spent the day observing the stations and talking with the board and founding members,” said Dodman. “I gained insight on how this camp is organized, how it has evolved over the past 10 years, how they have adjusted through the pandemic, what works, and what doesn’t.”
As a send-off, three bursaries and two scholarship were announced for the first time at Camp Ignite.
Creston local Mickelson was awarded with a full scholarship for Fire Academy with Training Division. She will have the choice to attend in Surrey or Texas and will have three years to utilize the scholarship.
In the coming months, CFR staff will be approaching other fire departments and schools for interest in participation and sponsorships for “Camp Ignite in the Kootenays”.
To keep costs down, they will be seeking donations of funds, goods, and services. Anyone interested in helping or participating can contact the Assistant Fire Chief Laura Dodman directly for more information at 250-428-2214 ext. 512.
More information about Camp Ignite can be found at campignite.com.