Pender Island Fire/Rescue, in association with Salt Spring Island Fire/Rescue and other partners in emergency response including the RCMP and BC Ambulance Service, will be guiding 25 courageous youths through an intense boot camp of hands-on fire/rescue training from March 18 to 23, 2019. Following a record number of applications, this year’s successful cadets (ages 15 to 18) include 13 boys and 12 girls from Salt Spring Island, Pender Island, Galiano Island, as well as the Saanich and Victoria areas of South Vancouver Island.
A great way to challenge teens both mentally and physically, the Gulf Islands Fire/Rescue Cadet Camp is endorsed by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs and has grown into one of the most respected camps of its kind in Canada. Totaling over 100 hours of rigorous training, the cadets reach new levels of confidence, self-esteem, courage, and teamwork through hands-on instruction in structure fires, auto extrication, high angle rope rescue, search and rescue, and medical first response.
This year, the cadets will also receive rescue demonstrations by a Royal Canadian Air Force Cormorant helicopter visiting from 442 Squadron-Comox, and get firsthand experience in marine search and rescue operations with the support of the Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft based in Richmond, the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue cutter from Salt Spring Island, as well as an RCMP vessel from the Outer Gulf Islands detachment. The cadets will also be the first of their peers to utilize Pender Island Fire Rescue’s new live fire/drill tower training facility, completed last year.
Although there are a number of youth firefighting programs across the country, the Gulf Islands Fire/Rescue Cadet Camp is one of the few to engage and supervise teens 24 hours a day for six consecutive days. This is possible thanks to the commitment of over 40 firefighter and community mentors who volunteer their time in the areas of development, training, oversight, food, lodging, and other support roles. Members of the RCMP, BC Ambulance Service, and the Southern Gulf Islands Emergency Program also lend their support to this important initiative.
“Every camp brings us a new appreciation for the commitment, determination and passion of our cadets,” notes Pender Island Fire Chief Charlie Boyte. “It is truly exceptional to see how the mentorship of caring community firefighters and volunteers, with many decades of service, can impact the lives of our youth and vice versa. There is an amazing transformation in our cadets as they learn how to care for themselves, each other, and our communities. As well, each camp brings a renewed confidence in the sustainability of our emergency services and the concepts of commitment, care and compassion that bond our emergency responders together to serve and protect our communities.”
The camp, launched in 2005, is held at Fire Hall #1 on Pender Island, BC in the Southern Gulf Islands located between Vancouver and Victoria. Offered during the spring break of alternating years, a number of graduates have gone on to become accredited firefighters and first responders or chosen other careers in support of public health and safety. Several of these graduates will be returning for the 2019 camp as instructors and mentors to add their encouragement and expertise.