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Photos: Junior firefighters learn valuable life lessons at Coquitlam camp

The junior firefighters program has been running for five years

Liv Letourneau was so excited to hang out during her March break from high school classes, she volunteered to be the first student to swing her legs over the railing atop the training tower at Coquitlam Fire and Rescues Hall 1 and descend by rope to the parking lot three storeys below.

Letourneau and a handful of her peers from high schools around Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam were participating in the fifth annual Junior Firefighters camp that exposes them to some of the challenges and rewards of a possible career as a firefighter.

Deputy chief of operations, Scott Young, said during the eight days of camp, the young firefighters got the chance to train with fire extinguishers, learn hose handling skills, technical rope rescue, auto extrication, and Level C CPR. They also worked with self-contained breathing apparatus, ladders, hydrants, conducted searches in dark rooms and were educated about fire behaviour.

“Tying all together is an overall focus on working as a team,” Young added.

Ben Andrews, a Grade 11 student at Terry Fox Secondary, said that the team aspect of the week was the most rewarding.

“The family aspect and the brotherhood are very intriguing,” he said, adding it was the support of his fellow junior firefighters that helped him overcome his trepidation to dangle by rope from the training tower.

Tyler Folster, who’s in Grade 12 at Dr. Charles Best Secondary School, said he’s always been interested in pursuing a career as a firefighter, and the camp has given him a first-hand chance to see what that might be like.

“I learned you can’t do anything by yourself,” he said.

Young said while the program is still too young to have any of its previous graduates show up as a new recruit, that day could be coming soon.

He said even if none of the students end up becoming firefighters, the lessons they learn during their week together working as a team and challenging themselves to exceed their comfort zones will serve them well.

“We see confidence build in each individual and the team performance rapidly improves,” he said. “Size and strength are important, but so is problem solving, creativity and empathy.”