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New wildfire recruits put through paces

New recruits take part in a training bootcamp near Merritt this week.
May 08, 2015 - 2:33 PM

MERRITT - More than 200 seasonal firefighter applicants have made the cut and this month they are being put through a ‘rigorous’ bootcamp near Merritt.

About 1,000 people, many of which are post-secondary students, apply for the positions every year. Provincial Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek says the job is "very in demand" and the application process is "fairly rigorous."

“It’s an exciting job, a challenging job,” he says. “You’re outdoors, and usually seeing parts of the province you wouldn’t normally see otherwise.”

New recruit Holly Stewart, who works as a ski patroller in Fernie during the winter months, says the outdoor seasonal work is what appeals to her most.

“I wanted a job where I could work outside and work hard,” she says. “I want to see how hard I can work.”

Jonathan Semper is enjoying his time at bootcamp.
Jonathan Semper is enjoying his time at bootcamp.

Before recruits can make it to the week-long bootcamp they undergo several tests including strict fitness testing. This year only four possible recruits failed the final fitness test, which bootcamp chair Ryan Chapman says sometimes happens as a result of nervousness, given the nature of the testing.

Once the 200 or so recruits make it through to bootcamp they take part in seven days of hardcore training that has them learn things like fire control, water delivery (where they are required to carry about 75 pounds of gear) and creating helipads in the middle of the bush.

“Safety is always our number one thing, and this is where it all starts,” Skrepnek says. “Conceivably the people you see out here are future superintendents and incident commanders.”

More than 200 new recruits will go through bootcamp this month as B.C. Wildfire prepares for the busy season ahead.
More than 200 new recruits will go through bootcamp this month as B.C. Wildfire prepares for the busy season ahead.

Once they complete the bootcamp they are usually put to work as a seasonal firefighter. They can be assigned anywhere in the province.

Skrepnek notes while the work is seasonal, many return year after year because they enjoy the job so much.

New recruits create a hand guard, a tool used to help prevent wildfires from spreading.
New recruits create a hand guard, a tool used to help prevent wildfires from spreading.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infonews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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