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Photos: Coquitlam’s junior firefighters bring new meaning to hanging out over March Break

A dozen high school students from around the Tri-Cities spent the first week of their March break trying their hand at a career in firefighting at Coquitlam Fire Rescue's third Junior Firefighters camp.

As key frontline workers, firefighters have had to forge on through the COVID-19 pandemic. Same with those pondering a future career in the fire department.

Last week, a dozen high school students from across the Tri-Cities donned helmets and turnout gear in the third junior firefighter program put on by Coquitlam Fire Rescue.

But the imposition of public health regulations to prevent transmission of the coronavirus meant some changes, said Scott Young, the department’s deputy chief of operations.

The students, who are in grades 11 and 12, could only work with a few firefighters rather than an entire on-duty crew, they had to wear masks and minimize their physical interactions, and lunch breaks couldn’t become a chance to build camaraderie and community as everyone had to stay apart.

“Everyone keeping separate runs counter to our firefighter culture,” Young said, adding informal group actives were added to the daily itinerary so participants could bond.

The restrictions didn’t detract from the actual hands-on experience the junior firefighters got during their week at the Town Centre hall, though.

They learned about hose handling, fire streams, the basic use of ladders and breathing apparatus. They hoisted ladders, blasted fire extinguishers at live fires, ripped apart a car with the Jaws of Life.

Last Thursday, they even climbed the training tower and learned the technical skills and fearlessness of high-angle rescue.

Young said the program is a chance to plant a seed in the students as they begin to seriously ponder their next steps after high school.

“We hope someday, some of them will find their way back to us as firefighters and call this home,” he said.

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