Camp ignites young women’s interest in firefighting

Chloe Goodison and Rebecca Lyon aren’t sure if they want to become firefighters. But they’ve embarked upon a four-day quest to see if they’ve got the right stuff to do the job — or anything else the two 16-year-old Port Moody girls might set out to accomplish.

Goodison and Lyon, along with Anmore’s Chloe Heisler and Madelynn Hutchinson of Port Coquitlam, are among 23 young women from around Metro Vancouver attending Camp Ignite (which began today), an initiative by several fire departments to introduce them to the challenges and rewards of a career in firefighting.

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More importantly, it empowers them, said Camp Ignite’s director, Jen Dawkins.

“It gives them the skills to be anything they want in life,” said Dawkins, a Vancouver firefighter for 19 years who lives in Port Moody.

This is Camp Ignite’s eighth year. Two of its graduates have become firefighters, one in Vancouver and another in Burnaby.

Over the course of the four-day camp based at Simon Fraser University, the young women will travel to various fire departments and the Justice Institute’s fire training centre in Maple Ridge to learn skills like how to connect a hose to a fire hydrant, use an extinguisher and breathing apparatus, and how to do CPR. They’ll also take part in team-building exercises and, Saturday, they’ll be rappelling from the tower at PoMo's Inlet Centre fire hall.

Goodison and Lyon’s participation in Camp Ignite is being supported by Port Moody Fire and Rescue, which helps pay their registration costs and outfits them with gear like heavy rubber boots, firefighter pants, coats, gloves and helmets.

Ron Coulson, chief of Port Moody’s fire department, which has one female firefighter in its volunteer squad, told The Tri-City News it’s important more young women take up the profession “to reflect the community we serve."

Goodison, a student at Heritage Woods secondary school, said she still hasn’t decided on a career path, but she knows she wants to “help people," noting, “This will be a huge jump in that direction.”

Dawkins said apart from the demanding physical labour of fighting fires or attending to accident victims, firefighters are mostly “problem solvers,” and effective problem solving requires input from people with different experiences, ethnicities, sizes and genders.

“It’s about creating diversity in our toolbox,” she said.


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