Though most had not previously considered a career as a firefighter, the positive experiences that residents had during their recent S-100 Firefighting training and their visit to the Penticton Fire Hall had a few of them interested in pursuing it as a career option when they complete the residential phase of their therapy at Portage Keremeos.
After a hands-on tour of the Penticton Fire Hall, where residents got to use the equipment, ride in the fire truck, and have an in-depth discussion with the firefighters about what it takes to become a firefighter, they were geared up to take their S-100 Firefighting course several weeks later. Sponsored by BC Wildfire Management Branch – Penticton Fire Zone, this course consists of two days of classroom training, followed by a day of practical training in the field with firefighting crew leaders. To pass, residents needed to get an 80% on an open book test and then pass a practical test, during which they were evaluated on attitude and enthusiasm.
Immediately after the training, four residents were asked to participate in a controlled burn the nearby town of Oliver. Not only did it give them a chance to put their newly developed skills into practice, but it also proved to be the ultimate in teamwork activities, providing an opportunity for residents to apply the competencies that they have been learning in treatment. Participants also learned about the importance of natural and controlled fires to maintaining ecosystem health. An incredibly memorable experience for the youth, one called it the best day of her life, and another said it was even better than his visit to Disneyland.
In a letter of thanks, Morgan wrote: “You guys opened my eyes to a possible career path for me that intrigues me. Getting to do that prescribed burn was probably one of the coolest things I have ever done. Your department is great at what you do, so keep up the great work. I look forward to possibly working with you all in the future!”
Portage is very grateful to the Penticton Fire Rescue and the Ministry of Forestry for all of their efforts to work with, teach, and inspire the young people at Portage. Not only have these experiences helped broadened their horizons by adding a new skill to their tool belt, but they also got to experience the sensation of working with a team and giving back to the community.