Firefighting camp seeks female recruits

The Yukon Fire Marshall's Office is reaching out to a demographic that might not otherwise consider a career in firefighting: women.

The Yukon Fire Marshall’s Office is reaching out to a demographic that might not otherwise consider a career in firefighting: women.

This August the group will run a week-long firefighting camp for girls and women ages 16-25. It’s free, and the idea is to get more women thinking about firefighting.

Kiara Adams is the first and only woman ever hired as a full-time firefighter in the Yukon.

She’s always trying to convince others of the benefits of her chosen profession, she said.

“It’s just such a fantastic thing to get involved in for a young person,” said Adams. “I try with anybody and everybody.”

She started out as a volunteer at Mount Lorne’s fire department when she was only 15.

But that got old, after a while.

“It kind of lost its spark for me. I got a little bit bored, I guess.”

After a short hiatus Adams joined on with the Whitehorse Fire Department, and was quickly excited by both the increased call volume and the expanded set of technical skills required.

“Within a couple of months of being a recruit with the city I was like, ‘Yeah, this is what I want to do.’”

Being the only woman in the Whitehorse department can be challenging, but it’s not something she spends a lot of time considering, said Adams.

“To be honest I don’t think about it a whole bunch, because it’s just kind of the way it is.

“That being said, it would be fantastic to have some females at the department.”

Adams will be the deputy chief of the upcoming Camp Ember Fire Academy and one of its primary instructors.

James Paterson, Yukon’s deputy fire marshall, has been working hard to organize the camp.

There’s no real difference between the skill set or level of female and male firefighters, he said.

“I believe that women can do the job equally.”

It was a lesson he learned early on, fighting one of his very first fires alongside a female classmate.

“I ran out of steam, long before she did. I remember we were doing salvage and overhaul on the first floor of this building and we were pulling ceiling down with pike poles, and it’s a fairly strenuous job on the shoulders, but after about 10 minutes I was gassed, I was out of energy, but she was able to just keep going.”

The real benefit of getting more women thinking about firefighting is simply expanding the pool of potential firefighters, he said.

Adams agrees.

“There’s a lot of potential, I think. Half the population is female, and that’s a lot of potential of really good firefighters that isn’t being used,” she said.

The target audience for Camp Ember is young women who are fit and interested in a challenging and physically active career.

Over the week they will learn firefighting skills, including interior firefighting, exterior operations, high angle work and automative rescue. The camp will also focus on health, nutrition, fitness and wellness.

After completing the camp staff can help guide cadets to one of Yukon’s 16 volunteer fire departments, towards a career job or towards a formal education in firefighting.

Close to a quarter of Yukon’s 250 volunteer firefighters are women.

The camp will run from August 11 through 15, and applications are due July 31.

For more information visit Camp Ember Fire Academy – Yukon on Facebook.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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