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What's being a firefighter like? These girls are about to find out

Camp Ignite offers a weekend of mentorship to young women from the North Shore and across the province
Coral Johnson (15) and Keira Thomson (16) met Thursday to get a sample of what the three-day camp will be like.

A career putting out fires can be an intimidating idea for any youth, and even more so when the vast majority of people working in the field are a different gender.

Camp Ignite is a mentorship program designed to get more young women interested in firefighting. Female firefighters make up less than five per cent of workers in the profession, and even less in senior positions.

From Aug. 5 to 7, girls in Grade 11 and 12 will participate in three full days of firefighting activities at departments across the Lower Mainland.

On Thursday (July 28) two girls from the North Shore met at District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service’s training centre to get a preview of the experience.

With some assistance, they connected a fire hose to a hydrant and ran the hose over to a sweltering dummy in distress who needed a thorough soaking.

Keira Thomson, a 16-year-old student at Ecole Argyle Secondary, says she’s really interested in emergency response and thinks the camp is a good way to get involved in that community.

Firefighting can be intimidating because it’s a male-dominated profession, Thompson said. “It’s important, as young woman, to see strong women in the community like Lt. Kim [Saulner].”

“It’s good for younger girls to see that, to know that they can do that,” she added.

Saulner coordinated recruiting the North Shore students for the camp. She said there’s a saying at Camp Ignite: You can’t be what you can’t see.

“You never saw women firefighters, so you probably never even considered that as an option,” Saulner said.

The program is also about mentorship. Saulner recently ran into a young woman from the 2017 camp. That woman went on to do wildland firefighting and is now finishing her criminology degree, Saulner explained.

“Did Camp Ignite have any influence on your decisions?” Saulner asked her.

“Absolutely,” she replied.

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