Twelve graduates of the West Kelowna Junior Firefighter Program showed off a few of the skills they’ve learned at a ceremony last Thursday night in Glenrosa Fire Hall 34.
First the young men raced to put on their equipment and complete all necessary safety checks in under two minutes. Then they demonstrated a search and rescue exercise in front of family members, senior firefighters and local politicians in the audience.
Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary’s Junior Firefighter Program has been teaching aspiring firefighters a wide variety of skills for five years; it’s organized through a partnership between School District 23 and West Kelowna Fire Rescue.
Participants learn basic techniques such as the proper way to load the trucks and deploy the hoses. They also get to take part in live action training putting out car fires, dumpster fires and even structure fires from the outside.
“It’s wonderful because they get so much experience in a very short period of time,” said Jerry Rawson, a paid on-call firefighter and English teacher at Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary who is in charge of instructing the junior firefighters.
He noted many of his students are initially interested in simply learning more about firefighting; however, many discover it is the type of job they’d like to pursue.
“What our department does is teaches them and helps them challenge the professional qualifications so, if they really want to be full-time firefighters and apply for jobs any place in North America, they can do that.”
West Kelowna Fire Rescue assistant fire chief Darren Lee said the program also offers students credit toward graduation.
“I wish I had this when I was in high school,” said Lee.
Along with specific firefighting skills, Lee said the students learn the importance of teamwork, cooperation and collaboration.
It also benefits West Kelowna Fire Rescue.
“Recruiting and retention is really tough right now. This gives us a pool of people who we can hire—they still have to compete for the job against all the other guys and girls—but we know them…I think this sets the tone.”
Brandon Moore was awarded best overall junior firefighter at the graduation ceremony Thursday evening.
He said he recommends the Junior Firefighter Program to anyone who is slightly interested.
“You get a family out of this,” said Moore.
“You fail as a team or you pass as a team here.”
Moore said he appreciated receiving the best overall junior firefighter award, but noted he couldn’t have earned it without the other 11 graduates of the program.
“There’s no, ‘I’m the biggest guy out there,’ or, ‘I’m the strongest.’
“I’m helping these guys and they’re helping me—we all build each other up.”
He added he hopes to make a career out of firefighting one day.
“I want to be the guy to be called on when people are at their lowest point.”