Camp Ignite aims to inspire future first responders

Four-day camp offers young women a chance to experience the challenges of being a first responder

A four-day stay at firefighter camp may have sparked career aspirations for two Chilliwack teens.

Katie Murphy and Julia Bartel of Chilliwack attended Camp Ignite from Aug. 9 to Aug. 12.

“My experience at Camp Ignite was amazing,” said Julia Bartel.

Bartel said she was intimidated by the prospect at first, having zero firefighter or first responder training. But that changed by the end of it.

“Our mentors there were amazing. They walk you through everything. They build up your confidence, and they really cheer you on,” Bartel said.

Katie Murphy said she loved her time at Camp Ignite, as appreciated how the firefighters challenged them to try their best. The next step for her is paramedic training, as the camp experience cemented her dreams of becoming a first responder.

“I think if you build your strength up, and train hard, anyone can do this,” Murphy said.

Bartel said her favourite camp activities were “catching” a fire hydrant, which means connecting a hose to a hydrant and putting out a pallet fire.

Murphy said she enjoyed the challenge of trying to exit a burning building while blindfolded in full gear and breathing apparatus.

This was the first year that Chilliwack Fire Department has ever had the chance to sponsor someone to attend Camp Ignite, which has been running for the past eight years across the Lower Mainland.

At first they were surprised to find they had two candidates.

So they applied a second time for funding to the Fire Chiefs Association of B.C. and were successful in their bid, and that meant the second candidate was on her way to Camp Ignite.

“It gives the young women an opportunity to try out the different components of firefighting,” according to Lt. Lisa Axelson, fire prevention officer with the Chilliwack Fire Department, who spent some time at the camp this summer as a mentor.

The four-day camp is a way for young women to get exposed to the physical tasks of a first responder. It focuses on empowering them to push themselves, and learn new skills in a team environment.

Chilliwack Fire Department officials were thrilled.

“It was exciting to hear that we had two applicants interested in attending Camp Ignite,” said Fire Chief Ian Josephson.

The unique training and mentorship experiences could lead to future first responder aspirations, and some may go on to become career firefighters or investigators, which amounts to a type of succession planning for the department, according to Chief Josephson.

Chilliwack actually has the highest ratio of female-to-male firefighters per capita in B.C., with a total of eight out of 172.

“We found that interesting,” said Josephson. Four are career firefighters, while the other four are paid on-call.

While it wasn’t their goal to have the highest number of women for their department’s size, but it certainly has benefits.

“We hope we a have a department that attracts a diverse work force in general, and certainly having more women firefighters is a goal, and works to our advantage,” Josephson said.


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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