Since Danielle Nellestyn was 12 years old, when she started bussing tables at a café, she’s always set big goals for herself.
In her teens, to save up enough money to travel the world, she held several part-time jobs, including flexible ones like lifeguarding, so she could quickly return to work whenever she returned from her travel adventures. By her mid-twenties, Danielle had backpacked to nearly 40 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
In addition to being a competitive surfer, the Vancouver Island resident also serves on the board of directors for a non-profit called Canadian World Education Society (CanWES) which fundraises to build schools and pay teachers in Nepal, a country she’s travelled to twice to teach English. Career-wise, working in emergency situations, like those faced by lifeguards, appealed to her. And after travelling for so long, she realized she wanted to help people in her local community.
To that end, Danielle decided to accomplish her goals by becoming a career firefighter and soon joined a volunteer fire department. Then she chose to attend the Justice Institute of British Columbia’s Fire Fighting Technologies Certificate (FFTC) program on the recommendation of several friends.
The women definitely brought a good dynamic to the group, and I feel as though we all pushed and motivated each other ... I don't feel like any of us felt out of place for a second
“They said it was hard work mentally and physically, but they were all glad they went,” Danielle said.
The program is comprised of up to 12 weeks of online, knowledge-based courses, followed by seven weeks of hands-on, live-fire training at JIBC’s Maple Ridge campus, Western Canada’s most extensive firefighting training facility.
Danielle was part of a cohort where women made up about one-quarter of the class.
“The women definitely brought a good dynamic to the group, and I feel as though we all pushed and motivated each other. The whole group seemed to have great morale most of the time anyway. I don’t feel like any of us felt out of place for a second.”
The Langford, B.C. resident took time off work to take in the practical training at the Maple Ridge campus and says it was well worth it. It gave her skills and confidence when deployed recently to fight the B.C. wildfires in the Okanagan-Similkameen region with her volunteer fire department, helping fulfill her goal of making a difference in the community.
“I loved the program. The practical portion was so much fun! Lots of repetitions of skills, and lots of live-fire [training],” Danielle recalled. “All of the training officers were very knowledgeable and really seemed geared towards helping us be successful in our firefighting endeavours.”
While firefighting is a highly competitive field, Danielle believes her JIBC experience has given her an advantage, having performed many repetitions of the required skills. She's further honed this through training sessions at her volunteer fire department, where she sometimes helps other recruits by sharing what she learned.
“Now I have the skills and can practise them with confidence while I prepare to apply for a career.”
Applications are now being accepted for upcoming intakes of the Fire Fighting Technologies Certificate program. For more information and to apply, visit jibc.ca/fftc.