SUBMITTED BY GULF ISLANDS FIRE RESCUE CADET CAMP
Pender Island Fire Rescue (PIFR), in association with Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue and other emergency response partners including the RCMP and BC Ambulance Service, are guiding 16 courageous students through an intense boot camp of hands-on fire and rescue training this week.
The first Gulf Islands Fire Rescue Cadet Camp held since 2019 due to COVID-19 restrictions, PIFR received a record number of applications for the week-long spring break program. This year’s successful cadets (ages 15 to 18) hail from the Southern Gulf Islands and Southern Vancouver Island.
Endorsed by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, the Gulf Islands Fire Rescue Cadet Camp has grown into one of the most respected camps of its kind in Canada. Totalling over 100 hours of rigorous training, the cadets reach new levels of confidence, self-esteem, fitness and teamwork through hands-on instruction in structure fires, auto extrication, high-angle rope rescue, search and rescue, medical first response and more.
The cadets receive first-hand experience in search and rescue operations onboard a Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft, one of the largest search and rescue hovercraft in the world, as well as on a Royal Canadian Air Force CH-148 Cyclone helicopter and RCMP vessels.
The Gulf Islands Fire Rescue Cadet Camp is one of the few youth firefighting programs in Canada to engage and supervise teens 24 hours a day for six consecutive days. This is possible thanks to the commitment of over 40 firefighters and community mentors who volunteer over 2,500 hours in the areas of development, training, oversight, food, lodging and other support roles.
Pender Island Fire Chief Mike Dine developed the concept for the camp over 20 years ago with the first bi-annual cadet camp taking place in 2005.
“Our community-based Gulf Island fire department provides youth from across the Capital Region with essential life skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives,” said Dine. “In just one week, there is an amazing transformation in our cadets as they see the value of community service, teamwork and leadership skills, while learning through first-hand experiences.”
A number of camp 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 have returned for the 2023 camp as instructors and mentors to add their encouragement and expertise.
The cadets will have the opportunity to utilize Pender Island Fire Rescue’s state-of-the-art live-fire and drill-tower training facility, completed in 2018.
Members of the RCMP, BC Ambulance Service, Canadian Coast Guard, Royal Canadian Air Force, the Southern Gulf Islands Emergency Program, and School District 64 also lend their support to this important initiative. Students receive career credits towards graduation through their school districts upon completion of the camp.