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Indigenous youth participate in Esquimalt firefighting boot-camp

The camp is part of a four-day long event aimed at supporting First Nations’ youth
Esquimalt Fire Chief Matt Furlot helped mentor Indigenous youth during a firefighting boot-camp aimed to provide the youth with some of the the skills involved in firefighting on Thursday, March 21. (Bailey Seymour)

Indigenous youth from across the province gathered in Esquimalt to get hands-on firefighting training as part of a four-day event aimed at providing tangible experiences, tools, resources and knowledge for First Nations youth.

On March 20 and 21, the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society of B.C. and Esquimalt Fire Rescue held a firefighting workshop for the the Gathering Our Voices, a gathering of over 1,000 Indigenous youth aimed at empowering the youth through ceremonies, workshops and educational experiences.

“The goal is to expose First Nation’s youth to what it’s like to be a firefighter, and what career opportunities there are. So even though when you think of firefighting, you think of it as being very physical, there’s lots of fingers of opportunities within those careers,” said Reo Jerome, a retired Surrey firefighter and a fire service instructor for FNESS.

Over the two days, the youth got the opportunity to do survival and rescue training, to use hydraulic rescue tools and they learned how to breach and clear buildings. The camp led to the finale where the youth got the opportunity to extinguish a contained vehicle fire.

“It’s great because we’re building awareness of the fire service, about prevention, about a career in the fire service if they’re interested,” said Matt Furlot, Esquimalt fire chief.

He mentioned that Indigenous people are ten-times more likely to be killed in a fire, largely because the national fire code does not extend into First Nations’ reserves, so the fire department donates smoke detector’s to the camp’s participants.

Jerome said in the years he’s been holding firefighting camps, lots of youth and young adults have shown a keen interest in firefighting, some of which work in Greater Victoria fire departments today, and FNESS continues to pay for some training and certifications for young adults who graduate from their programs.

Gathering Our Voices will be holding its closing ceremony on Friday, March 22 at the Victoria Conference Centre.

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Bailey Seymour

About the Author: Bailey Seymour

After graduating from SAIT and stint with the Calgary Herald, I ended up at the Nanaimo News Bulletin/Ladysmith Chronicle in March 2023
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