Officials yell: “ON YOUR MARK, GET SET, GO!” Stopwatches are activated and the competition drill begins.
Saik’uz Fire Department members’ training has paid off last month as they took first place in a regional firefighting competition in Vernon. This victory qualifies them for Nationals.
Gilbert Vickers and his crew are headed to New Brunswick to represent British Columbia in the August 12 competition against other First Nations Fire Department teams from each province.
The annual National Firefighter Competition, hosted by the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC) is an event promoting fitness, health, and wellness of firefighters across Canada. This year the finals are being held in Tobique First Nation Community, N.B.
It’s a physically gruelling outdoor competition requiring a high level of fitness, agility, teamwork and skill in use of equipment.
In this competition there are 28 relay drills called ‘evolutions’. Teams of six, a captain and five firefighters complete each evolution wearing full protective turnout gear including steel toe boots and helmets. They combine the use of a pumper truck, ladders, hoses, nozzles, compressed air cylinders and breathing apparatus to complete various timed evolutions and navigate hazards along an obstacle course to knock down specific targets or extinguish live fires. Courses involve all sorts of challenges like carrying equipment while crawling through a 24’’ by 10-ft. tube.
Teams have one chance to give each evolution their best shot. No re-runs are allowed. The competition judges and officials score teams based on their knowledge of fire service standards and the total time to successfully complete evolutions. A team’s total time is determined by adding the average running time from the number of official stopwatches plus the penalty time as assessed by the referees (running time + penalty = total time). Contestants lose time in stopping to correct any infractions i.e. straighten out hose, go back for spanner etc.
Strict penalty deductions are given for occurrences of not adheering to safety procedures, not using full protective clothing, incorrect charging and rolling of hose lines, leaking couplings, kinks in the hose, poor communication, incorrect discharge of retardant, misuse of equipment and compromising safety.
It’s not just fun and games. The competition has a serious mission; to reduce fire deaths and loss of property on reserve through the promotion of standards, legislation, training and fire prevention.
AFAC works with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to deliver programs and services including fire prevention programs, awareness campaigns, National Firefighters Competition, National Fire Prevention Strategy and supporting regional First Nations Fire and Emergency Services.
The Saik’uz Fire Department are not directly involved in fighting the wildfires because their responsibility is to protect the 120 homes in the community.
When the team are away for the National Competition, the Vanderhoof Volunteer Fire Department will be on standby to protect homes in Saik’uz First Nation.