Twenty-five youths have been selected for an intense boot camp on Pender Island, running March 18 to 23, as part of a Fire and Rescue initiative dubbed “The Making of Heroes.”
Pender Island and Salt Spring Island’s fire rescue services are hosting the Gulf Islands Fire/Rescue Cadet Camp that will see input from a range of associated organizations, such as the RCMP and BC Ambulance Service.
A record number of 15 to 18-year-olds applied, with 13 boys and 12 girls selected for the training camp.
The selected cadets hail from Salt Spring Island, Pender Island, Galiano Island, as well as Greater Victoria and the South Island.
The camp is described as a great way to challenge teens both mentally and physically and is endorsed by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs.
Totaling more than 100 hours of rigorous training, the core aim is for cadets to reach new levels of confidence, self-reliance, courage, and teamwork through hands-on instruction in a number of difficult tasks. These include structure fires, auto extrication, high angle rope rescue, search and rescue, and medical first response.
This year, the cadets will also experience the thrill of seeing rescue vehicles in action. 442 Squadron will demonstrate search and rescue techniques using one of their Cormorant helicopters and the Canadian Coast Guard is sending their hovercraft to the camp. Additionally, the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue cutter will be utilized for exercises, as will an RCMP vessel.
The cadets will be the first of their peers to use Pender Island Fire Rescue’s new live fire/drill tower training facility, completed last year.
Although there are a number of youth firefighting programs across the country, the Gulf Islands Fire/Rescue Cadet Camp say they are one of the few to engage and supervise teens 24 hours a day for six consecutive days. This is possible thanks to the commitment of more than 40 community mentors who provide training, oversight, food, lodging and other support roles. Members of the RCMP and the Southern Gulf Islands Emergency Program also intend to lend their support to the camp.
“Every camp brings us a new appreciation for the commitment, determination and passion of our cadets,” said Pender Island Fire Chief Charlie Boyte. “It is truly exceptional to see how the mentorship of caring community firefighters and volunteers, with many decades of service, can impact the lives of our youth and vice versa. There is an amazing transformation in our cadets as they learn how to care for themselves, each other, and our communities.”
The organizers are pleased to note that a number of graduates have gone on to become accredited firefighters or chosen other careers in the public health and safety spheres. Several of these graduates will be returning for the 2019 camp as instructors and mentors to add their encouragement and expertise.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, March 23, the cadets’ week of detailed training will end with rotating demonstrations of their newly acquired skills, followed by a team challenge and awards ceremony.