A firefighting course at Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School is presenting students with a unique learning opportunity while getting them engaged in different activities outside of the classroom.
Fire departments in the 100 Mile House area are offering them a ton of support, seeing it as a potential way to engage new members.
The elective course has more than a dozen Grade 10-12 students learning both structural firefighting and wildland firefighting techniques similar to the local halls and province’s initial attack crews.
On April 14, students of the course had a field day at the 100 Mile Training Centre site, learning a number of skills at different stations – rolling hoses, running water pumps and digging ditches. On April 21, fire and clouds of smoke could be seen alongside Highway 97 at the Horse Lake Road intersection as students in full gear oversaw a controlled burn near the school.
Teacher John Murray says the course offers students a bit of excitement during the day, while opening their eyes to a potential career opportunity. He adds 100 Mile House Fire-Rescue, the province’s Wildfire Management Branch, and other fire departments in the area have been extremely generous with donating time, equipment and resources to make the learning more real and relevant for students.
“I really believe it fosters community building,” Murray says of the course.
“These kids are learning to volunteer in their community. The halls like it because these kids are feeding into the halls. We’ve had five or six [students] that have ended up joining volunteer halls because of the course.”
Mike Law, unit supervisor of a local wildfire crew, was one of the instructors during the field day where students got a hands-on look at some of the things that need to be done to stop a fire. With the completion of the course, students receive an S-100 Basic Fire Suppression and Safety certificate, something the Wildfire Management Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations looks for in applicants.
“It’s a fun day and a good opportunity for the kids to get something extra out of it,” Law says of the field day. “[The classroom material] actually makes sense [when they’re out here] and they get to come out and play around for the day.”
Although it wasn’t offered when he was in high school, Law says he would have enrolled if it was.
“It’s definitely a good program.”
It seems the program, which has been running in 100 Mile House for three years, was really able to get off the ground because of some of the connections made by Murray. The local teacher has been a volunteer firefighter for over 10 years, bridging the gap between the two worlds.
He emphasizes the great support the program receives from volunteer departments and the Ministry of Forests.
“Their extra effort makes this course what it is. If I didn’t have their support, it would be a really boring course.”