Ashley Long has always wanted to be a firefighter, to be able to help someone on what could be one of the worst days of their lives.
But straight out of high school, Ashley thought she would be too young to be considered seriously for a firefighter job. So, in the meantime she decided to pursue her other passion – cooking. She completed the Culinary Arts program at The Art Institute of Vancouver and went on to earn her Red Seal in the field.
Then with that career backup plan in hand, she decided to focus on firefighting by taking the Fire Fighting Technologies Certificate (FFTC) program at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC). The program came highly recommended by her uncle, who is a training officer with a fire department in Metro Vancouver.
“My uncle attended JIBC and was very happy with the education he received,” Ashley said. After attending a JIBC information session, she decided to take the plunge despite some reservations about her age.
“I took it when I was 19, it was intimidating as I was one of the youngest in the class but I didn’t want to wait any longer to pursue my dream job.”
The program was probably one of the best decisions I made
Ashley loved the program, which is comprised of up to 12 weeks of online, knowledge-based courses, followed by seven weeks of hands-on, live-fire training at the Maple Ridge campus, Western Canada’s most extensive firefighting training facility.
“My class became a small family. The training officers had endless amounts of knowledge and experience to pass along. The memories I have from the program are irreplaceable. I was very happy with the amount of hands-on training we received.”
At the end of the program Ashley was recognized with the Jon Baillie Award, voted on by her peers and instructors, as the cohort’s top student in terms of academic performance, proficiency in practical skills, leadership, teamwork, work ethic and professionalism.
Several months after graduating she was hired as a paid, on-call firefighter for the City of Maple Ridge. Before the year was out she was promoted to a career firefighter position.
“The knowledge and skills I gained during my training contributed to my success during the hiring process for Maple Ridge. I had to complete a skills portion as well as a written exam based on all the material that I was taught at JIBC.”
At the Maple Ridge Fire Department, its crews are trained in all areas, including high-angle rope rescue, and as swift water technicians, she noted. Every day on the job Ashley uses some part of her JIBC training.
To anyone considering a firefighting career, Ashley would “absolutely” recommend JIBC’s FFTC program.
“The program was probably one of the best decisions I made. The training officers are phenomenal, the facility has numerous props, you get a lot of hands-on time, the class sizes are small, and you get the opportunity to feel what it’s like to have a second family, just like working in a department. Your classmates become some of your best friends.”
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.