Heating things up
Of the 89 firefighters in the West Vancouver Fire Department, four are women.
Across Capilano River the numbers aren’t much better. The District of North Vancouver has two female members in its pool of 20 firefighters, while the city has a single female firefighter in a team of 56.
It’s an imbalance the North Shore fire departments are trying to fix, says Martin Ernst, West Vancouver fire assistant chief.
This summer, the organizations will send three North Shore girls in grades 10 to 12 to a camp where they can learn more about becoming a firefighter. Camp Ignite is run by female firefighters from across the Lower Mainland. It introduces participants to not only firefighting, but healthy living and fitness, including team-building exercises.
Carla Penman was the first female firefighter on the North Shore. With the District of North Vancouver fire department, she’s been battling flames 14 years. As one of the camp’s coordinators, she says the camp is about inspiring young women to chase their dreams.
“The camp is just about fun, fitness and confidence,” she says. “It’s to show them they can become anything they want to be.”
Each fire department will sponsor one candidate. That individual will spend three days at the Vancouver Fire Rescue Training Centre. Applicants must submit their applications to their school’s counsellor.
There’s a misconception that firefighters need to be big and burly, but that’s not the case, Ernst says. “You use your wits before your strength,” he says.
The majority of B.C. fire departments had a surge of hiring in the ’70s and ’80s. Now departments face a slew of retirements, Ernst says, noting the West Van department recently hired three new firefighters.
Camp Ignite will run from Aug. 5 to 7. The deadline to apply is June 2.