Indigenous firefighters learn blaze-battling basics at fire college in Thompson

The Office of the Fire Commissioner (OFC) ran a basic firefighting course at Thompson’s Manitoba Emergency Services College March 12−14, with the aim of introducing First Nations residents to some techniques that will help save lives in their communities.

Twelve men and women from Oxford House, Split Lake and Lac Brochet learned about turnout gear, hose deployment and how to safely navigate a burning building throughout those three days.

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“It doesn’t necessarily teach them how to go in and extinguish a fire,” said OFC instructor Ken Carmichael. “But it gives them what is needed to now be able to advance to that next step of going in and extinguishing the fire.”

Split Lake resident Calvin Spence said he’s been a volunteer firefighter in his community for four months now and told the Thompson Citizen he’s happy to have made the trip down to Thompson for this course. 

“Pretty much everything we learned I’m going to take back home … and show to my other firefighters in Split Lake,” he said.

Carmichael says that OFC runs these training programs on a semi-regular basis in collaboration with Keewatin Tribal Council, and hopes that they can organize more events in the future to help these recent participants build on what they’ve learned over the last three days.

“They’ve been a great group. I can’t say anything negative about them,” he said. “It’s been a good experience for us with the Office of the Fire Commissioner working with the Keewatin Tribal Council and we’re going to continue working together.”

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