Firefighters from First Nations across the province gathered in Esquimalt Saturday to put their skills to the test in the 38th Indigenous Firefighters Competition.
Organized by the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society, the annual event sees firefighters compete while performing up to four evolutions in the BC Evolution Manual, which outlines standard steps for common firefighting tasks in the province.
“It’s been a virtual event for the past two years, so it is pretty exciting. They are all volunteer fire departments, so this gives them a chance to practice their skills … and exchange local knowledge between themselves,” said Alisha Juma, fire service coordinator with FNESS. “And the winning team gets to go to the National Firefighting Competition.”
Crews tested a wide range of skills, including water spray accuracy, laying out and connecting multiple hoses, team communication, and proper hose storage throughout the day. Each task was performed against the clock and against another team, with judges from the hosting Esquimalt Fire Rescue ensuring each step was performed flawlessly as cheers of encouragement rang out from the sidelines.
“It’s been excellent. There is a lot of great camaraderie and support for all eight teams from around the province,” said Reo Jerome, fire services instructor with FNESS. “The challenge is these communities are remote, so they have to rely on community members in an emergency. That’s where we come in and train them.
FNESS was originally formed to help Indigenous communities in the province develop and maintain volunteer fire departments to ensure they are able to respond to emergencies no matter how remote their community is. It has since grown to encompass all aspects of emergency response, and both continues to help communities develop their own capabilities through training, and provide capabilities to communities directly.