As an athlete, Okanagan Mission Grade 11 student Liam Smith is used to a team environment where everyone is pulling on the same rope towards a common goal.
He’s also used to the physical pressures of sports and on Wednesday his fitness level was put to the test, along with about 50 other students from around the Central Okanagan School District at the Kelowna Fire Department’s first ever boot camp.
Students were put through five different stations at the boot camp as an introduction to a potential career in firefighting.
“It’s been interesting,” said Smith after suiting up in full firefighting gear including a mask that firefighters wear to enter a smoke-filled structure. “I like (firefighting as a potential career) a lot. I like helping people out and I like the community around it. It’s something that interests me.”
As a speed skater, Smith said he was able to handle the physical challenges put before the students but he said the event helped him get a broader understanding of what firefighters may go through on a daily basis.
“It gives it more of a greater spectrum to see what’s involved in firefighting and everything that is going on,” he said.
And that was the point of the firefighting boot camp: To introduce students to a potential career in emergency services.
Students spent a half hour at each of five different stations, climbing a 70-foot tall ladder, racing into a building to lift a hose up through a window, running 75 feet with a charged hose, putting out fires with extinguishers and checking out the Kelowna Fire Department’s dispatch centre.
“This is a good way of getting experience if I do want to be a firefighter or get into emergency services,” said fellow OKM student Devin Waller. “These guys go through some pretty hard stuff. I have always had respect for emergency services but now I have new-found respect for firefighters.”
The boot camp was organized at the urging of the Central Okanagan School District’s career planning department who contacted the fire department and asked if it was possible to host local students.
Kelowna Fire Department fire inspector Rick Euper says they designed the boot camp to be a physical challenge to give students the chance at some challenges that firefighters go through during their careers.
“A lot of people say they want to be firefighters but they never get that chance,” he said. “Maybe we can spur some of these kids on, maybe this is something they want to do. This is to encourage them to be a firefighter.”
Euper added that the challenges were not only physical but also the students were challenging each other and making it like a competition, and that’s the attitude that is part of being a firefighter.
“It’s bringing out that competitive nature and that’s what it takes, that’s what we look for in firefighters, it’s part of the way we are made,” he said.
The first step for a student looking to get into firefighting as a career would be to take a post-secondary training in firefighting at an accredited college or university.