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Camp Ignite aims to spark an interest in firefighting for young women

Two-day camp being held this August in Vancouver and North Vancouver
Laurel Davey is about to go from watching emergency responders on the small screen to jumping off the couch into the big fray herself.

Davey, a high school student at North Vancouver’s Sutherland Secondary, jokes that at the beginning of quarantine last year she spent a lot of time watching action-drama television centred on the exploits of heroic first-responders in dire situations.

“I was really inspired by them,” says Davey. “And I’ve always looked at careers in emergency services.”

Fast forward a year and Davey says she wasn’t joking when she jumped at the opportunity to attend Camp Ignite later this summer, along with more than 30 other young women from the Lower Mainland and across B.C. who are curious about what being a professional firefighter is all about.

Run solely be female firefighters and department members from across the province, the purpose of Camp Ignite is to show girls aged 15 to 18 what is possible in a traditionally male-dominated industry and, hopefully, spark an interest that could lead to a promising career.

“You can’t be what you don’t see,” explains Rebecca Hathaway, a fire inspector and public educator with North Vancouver City Fire Department. “By showing young women that we can work in the fire department and we can do the job – and we do it just as well as our colleagues do – it will inspire young women to go into industries that are traditionally male-dominated.”

Camp Ignite has been running for more than 10 years. Fire departments throughout the province typically sponsor students to attend the camp.

On Thursday (July 22), Davey, along with fellow campers Tia Harris and Eleanor Green, got to meet their mentors at District of North Vancouver's firefighter training centre on St Denis Avenue. While there they also received their fire gear and got a taste of what the camp will have in store – which included plenty of co-ordinated efforts to blast targets with the fire hose.

Davey, Harris and Green are sponsored by the City of North Vancouver’s fire department, District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, and West Vancouver Fire and Rescue services, respectively.

Hathaway said that traditionally many campers attend Camp Ignite who are already dead-set on becoming firefighters, while others are simply looking for a unique, challenging summer camp.

“They want to try something a little bit different,” she says.

In years past the camp has been a four-day overnight adventure, but this year due to the pandemic camp organizers have opted for a day camp running Aug. 14 and 15. Day one will be held at Vancouver Fire Rescue Services while the second day will be held at North Vancouver’s massive outdoor firefighter training centre.

High-angle rescues, urban search and rescue, auto extraction, rappelling, knot tying, fire extinguishing, firetruck ladder operation, CPR, and basic first aid training are all on the campers’ agenda, in addition to sessions on general health and well-being, according to Hathaway.

With wildfire season in full effect – and currently devastating much of the province – Hathaway said the camp would be a great opportunity to train some of tomorrow’s leaders.

“We teach them a lot about leadership skills and team building,” she says. ““I continue to mentor a couple of my campers.”

To learn more about keeping your home, neighbourhood and community prepared for wildfires, visit the FireSmart BC website.