Project Firefighter participants and their instructors pose in front of the Fort St. James burn building.

Project Firefighter 2013

Project Firefighter gives students from Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, Fraser Lake and Burns Lake the opportunity for firefighter training.

“It’s hard but it’s fun, and that’s what it’s all about,” said Darren Carpenter, to the assembled students.

Carpenter is the School District 91 coordinator for careers and trades, and the students he was addressing were participants in Project Firefighter 2013, which gives Grade 12 students from Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, Fraser Lake and Burns Lake the opportunity for some pretty tough firefighter training.

The students are fully immersed in a structural firefighter department scenario. The students spend time in the fire hall doing classroom theory on firefighting, clean gear and the fire hall, prepare their meals like full-time municipal fire departments normally would, and are given live-fire scenarios at the Fort St. James Fire Training Centre.

The training centre has a two-story burn building which allows for live-fire exercises, and the trainers light fires at the site and the student firefighters get a chance to put them out and practice rescue scenarios as well.

They also do firefighter games in the evening at the fire hall, after the students have cleaned the base and prepared their dinner.

The students are then later surprised at some point in the night with a call-out to respond to a fire at the training facility, giving them the chance to experience some of the types of challenges of this kind of on-call work.

Carpenter said it is a “great learning opportunity” for the students because they get to apply what they have learned in theory in the classroom and experience the reality of working in fire.

He also said the District of Fort St. James and the local fire department are great partners in the program, having put it on for the past seven years because Fort St. James has the only live burn building in the area.

“It’s been a great success,” said Carpenter.

All of the students who participate are already junior firefighters with their municipal fire departments, so Carpenter said the program rewards students who are already doing something good for the community by volunteer firefighting.

The students gain Grade 12 credits for the program, and spend in all, a day and a half immersed in the job of municipal firefighter.