Over 60 course newbies and veterans, both guys and girls, young and old, from all across the Yukon, participated in the second annual Beat The Heat bootcamp from April 30 to May 8.
“It’s a great range of people but when you look at them out there, they’re all cheering each other on,” said Chad Thomas, head instructor for the Yukon First Nation Wildlife Beat The Heat bootcamp and head of fire management services for the Da Daghay Development Corporation. “We’ve created a great team atmosphere.”
The nine-day orientation into wildland fire fighting accepted candidates from all over the Yukon but mainly from the communities.
Trainees were put through mock scenarios, taught how to work with hand tools, pumps and firetrucks, and received emergency safety training along with a plethora of other firefighter prerequisites.
Nineteen-year-old Jeremy Menacho from Ross River was at the camp for his first time. His older brother went through the training last year and encouraged Menacho to try it out.
“I’m here really just to test myself to see if I can make it through, but if I don’t then there is always next year.”
Menacho’s favourite part as he talked to the News on May 3, about halfway through the training, was the fitness components and meeting all the new people.
“Seeing the happy faces. Introducing myself to people I don’t know,” he said, adding that it’ll take awhile to get to know everyone.
But May 3 was also the most dreaded and grueling day — the WFX-FIT test day.
“I’m pretty sure the ramp is going to be challenging,” the rookie said as he watched others trudge slowly up and over it dozens of times for almost 15 minutes each. “I tried it 10 days ago and I was pretty much dead right after that.”
Participants, wearing a weighted belt to simulate the weight of firefighting gear, had to complete a timed circuit which involves four separate components. The course must be completed in under 14 minutes 30 seconds to pass the WFX-FIT.
For the first component, they wore a simulation pump weighing almost 30 kilograms on their backs and had to travel a total of 160 metres, traversing a ramp more than a metre tall with a 35-degree pitch every 20 metres.
Once that was complete, they had to carry a simulation pump around the circuit, by passing the ramp, for a total of 80 metres.
Third and probably most troublesome, was the hose pack lift and carry.
Participants wore a pack weighing 25 kg, about the same weight as four lengths of hose, for one kilometre. Again, they had to climb up and down the ramp every 20 metres.
Lastly, if the trainee had any energy left, they dragged a weighted sled 80 metres to finish the circuit.
Although both physically and mentally demandng, Menacho suggested that everyone should give the bootcamp a try at some point or another.
“(It’s) great exercise, you’ll meet the whole crew, and sooner or later in life you’re going to consider them family, brothers and sisters,” he said.
More importantly though, bootcamp participants have the opportunity to protect the things that mean most to everyone in the Yukon.
“We will be there fighting for our people and our country,” said Menacho.
Beat The Heat bootcamp was started in partnership with Da Daghay Development Corporation when CEO Ben Asquith saw a need in the community for more local firefighters, especially with B.C. and Alberta facing some of the largest wildfires in Canadian history the last couple years.
“We know there is a fire coming,” said Asquith. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. So we need to be ready.”
Contact Crystal Schick at firstname.lastname@example.org