The Yukon’s firefighting academy for women wrapped up its 2023 program on Aug. 19 at the Golden Horn Fire Department in Whitehorse. Now in its ninth year, Ember Fire Academy ran for six days and saw the participation of 12 recruits selected from a pool of 35 applicants.
According to Megan Coyne, an instructor with Ember Fire Academy and a firefighter with the Whitehorse Fire Department, the academy’s program is more intensive than the once-a-week instruction most volunteer firefighters receive but less gruelling than professional firefighter training.
Participants in Ember’s program learn to use protective equipment and participate in fitness tests. They are instructed on several skills, including rescuing people from heights, cutting open a vehicle to free its occupants and responding to an emergency involving hazardous materials.
Of course, they are also trained to fight structure and vehicle blazes.
Upon completing the program, participants can become volunteer firefighters, among other possible roles. Coyne notes that recruits who become volunteer firefighters will most often respond to car accidents, brush fires and alarms around town.
“On any given year, it’s usually, I would say, an average of like five or six recruits out of the 12 that will become volunteer firefighters. We’ve also had a number of recruits go into [Yukon Wildland Fire Management], and a few that have gone into [emergency medical services],” Chief Kiara Adams of the Ember Fire Academy says.
Speaking about the importance of the Ember Fire Academy to the Yukon, Adams notes the program aims to improve the territory’s fire services and encourage more women to get involved.
“It’s not something that, historically, a lot of women think about as an option for themselves. So, to sort of present this as something that they can explore is very empowering for the women that go through the program […] whether they go on to become volunteer firefighters or not become volunteer firefighters, [participants] will be very empowered by the program,” Adams says.
“We’ve had so many women over the years that have said, ‘That week changed my life.’”
While one would be forgiven for assuming that participants celebrate the life-altering program’s conclusion with well-deserved adult beverages on a sunny patio, that is not the case.
Adams tells the News that, on the program’s final day, recruits receive a certificate and special awards are handed out. Afterwards, everyone participates in a “really fun physical fitness exercise” and fitness games.
Contact Matthew Bossons at firstname.lastname@example.org