A new fire season always means new faces – eager new firefighters travelling to Hinton to learn all about wildfire. Well of course, these newbies need to be trained. Well, you could say the instructors at the Hinton Training Centre have their hands full and need a few old hands from around the province to mentor these newbies, set up labs, help with morning fitness and anything else that needs to be done – that’s where my 2015 fire season started.
Mentors, just like all the young new faces, come from different backgrounds, cities, and cultures. It’s like moving to new neighborhood and meeting your neighbours for the first time. The first day is filled with hellos and handshakes, “where are you froms” and “what brings you heres”. Through all the questions I find myself, much like the new recruits, excited about the up-and-coming season.
After day one, everyone is kind of getting into the groove of things. Then comes the famous seed run. The seed run begins at 6 a.m.; it’s a five kilometre run that is up hill, downhill, and just a good ole time. After this run is done, we separate into fitness groups. Every morning from then on, you just wake up to the 5:45 a.m. alarm and go to fitness.
After a grueling morning of running, push-ups, sprints, and stairs, I just want to eat. Thank goodness for breakfast, this includes yogurt, bacon and some delicious hash browns.
I remember going through the firefighter members training course in 2011. The people I’ve met since then, and those I got to know though my rookie training, are some of the greatest people. My course was full of learning, eagerness and plain old comedy. I remember meeting my roommate Justin B, from Peace River…five seasons later and we are still friends. You share the same experiences and struggles of all of the people going through training. Even after all of the push-ups, early mornings, and study sessions I still wanted to fight fire.
About halfway through the intensive 10-day training course, you start to get hands-on experience. The new members start with chainsaws, a pump lab and then a strategies and tactics lab. In the last lab we fly to a mock wildfire. You can’t help but watch the new members light up when they load the helicopter with gear. Once we get loaded up, and the helicopter lifts off I turn around in the front seat; I look at their faces, and remember my first flight in a helicopter. I was overwhelmed and simply excited and it’s plain to see they are feeling the same way.
These new recruits have so much to look forward to – getting to know other members, learning more about themselves every day, pushing themselves further than they ever thought imaginable, becoming a better firefighter with the help of others. It’s strange to think that just five short years ago, Natalie, Jamie, and I went through as members at the same time and I have so much to thank all of the instructors and the other mentors for – including putting up with me and coming back every year to teach our new members.
Now I’m off to my next adventure!