Three Chilliwack teenagers will be learning the ropes of firefighting at Camp Ignite, a two-day experience that takes place August 15-16 in Vancouver and North Vancouver.
Cassidy Haglund, Kathleen Wong and McKenna Albisser will experience everything a firefighter can experience without being in the heat of the moment — everything from hoses and hydrants to ladder trucks, and beyond.
The camp is for females in Grades 11 and 12, designed as an intro to an occupation that is traditionally male dominated. This is the 11th year for camp. What started as a small offering put on by a very small group of women has grown into something much larger, and Haglund is happy to be part of it.
“I feel like being a female firefighter in a male-dominated industry would be kind of empowering,” she said Tuesday (July 20), after stopping by Chilliwack Fire Hall 1 to pick up the gear she’ll use at Camp Ignite. “I know I would probably go to work for Surrey Fire (Department), where there are very few women. I think I would like to be a part of changing that.”
Chilliwack is actually one of the leading regions for employing female firefighters.
Chilliwack fire prevention officer Lieut. Lisa Axelson said there are around 135 total members, including career and paid-on-call firefighters, and 17 are women.
“Which is huge,” Axelson said of a number that on the surface seems small. “Vancouver has almost 1,000 members, and they only have around 12 women.”
In the early years of Camp Ignite, most of the volunteers who helped out were men. In another sign of changing times, Axelson said this year’s camp will be completely staffed by women. They will have help from a mix of male and female firefighters from Vancouver Fire and the District of North Vancouver.
McKenna Albisser thinks it’s a good thing for younger females like herself to see women doing the job.
“And doing it just as well as the men,” she said. “Some females could do even better than the males, in certain aspects. Females tend to have more empathy towards people, and maybe if you’re in a situation where you’re helping a little girl, maybe they’d be more comfortable with a female.
“So I think it’s really good to have some equality going on in the future.”
Haglund and Albisser have been sponsored by the Chilliwack Fire Department and Kwong is being sponsored by the BC Fire Chiefs Association.
Kwong said she’s trying Camp Ignite to see what firefighting is like, and thinks it will be an exciting experience and a chance to meet interesting new people.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said. “I’m very excited.”