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How a young Shuswap woman is burning old ideas of who can be a firefighter

Kara Slous assesses the scene at an auto extrication exercise in this undated photo.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Columbia Shuswap Regional District
February 06, 2019 - 4:30 PM

TAPPEN — Dispatch tones go off at the fire hall to signal someone requires fire rescue assistance and Kara Slous jumps into action.

Slous, 25, is in her fourth year as a firefighter with the Tappen-Sunnybrae Fire Department. She has taken on a number of roles including being a captain and is currently a training officer.

There’s no telling where her career may advance from here but she doesn’t forget what it was like starting out as a young female firefighter in the small community of Tappen, just outside of Salmon Arm.

“It took a little to get used to,” she says.

Slous is one of eight women currently stationed at the fire hall in the community she’s lived in essentially all her life. She got her first taste of the life of a first-responder as a volunteer with the South Shuswap First Responders Association, a group of volunteers trained to respond to medical emergencies in the area.

“Some of the members from that association noticed I was quite dedicated and saw [I] had a lot of passion for the job,” she says.

They recommended she give firefighting a try.

“I really enjoyed it and I started getting into it pretty hard,” she says with a laugh.

Four years later and she is still able to recall how she felt on her first few days on the job responding to those first calls.

“It’s pretty exciting, you hear the tones go off for the first time when you have your level one and you’re allowed to go,” she says. “You’re pretty excited and you’re running out the door, jumping on the truck, it’s a big adrenaline rush.”

Now, primarily in a leadership and teaching role, Slous says she's grateful for the thorough training she received when she first started.

"Of course I would say it took a little to get used to the training, wearing the packs and masks and stuff but we were trained well and I liked it," she says.

The fire department is currently in the process of recruiting more people. Slous says she encourages young women like herself to give it a try.

“It’s important to have women in the fire service industry because we bring a different dynamic,” she says. “We all have different abilities and skills and we all work together better.”

She says in her time there, she hasn't experienced any discrimination or intolerance.

"It's 2019, this shouldn't be a problem anymore," she says. "We are all very respected because it's not tolerated."

She says joining the fire department is more than just getting a new job.

"You're not just joining a group of people who put out fires, you are joining a family, a group of friends," she says. "We all really look out for each other and care for each other."

Eventually, Slous says she would like to finish her primary care paramedic program.

"I would really like to continue in the fire service [industry] and continue training with my department and I'm hoping to take my paramedic and continue with that," she says.

For more information on firefighting in the Columbia Shuswap Regional District go here.

contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2019

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