Chantal MacLeod has always been interested in pursuing a career in firefighting but found it difficult to take time off work to do so.
For several years, Chantal has worked full time as a lifeguard and swim instructor at a local community centre. The job has given her the opportunity to use her first aid skills and to work in an environment that fosters teamwork.
She conducted extensive research on firefighting schools, which included attending a women’s firefighting information session at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC). Participants got to put on full turnout gear and try their hand at activities including raising ladders, hose handling, a dummy drag and climbing stairs while wearing self-contained breathing apparatus.
“I was so glad that I spent that rainy Saturday up at JIBC, it sparked a new, more intense interest and reaffirmed my passion to be part of the fire service,” Chantal said. “As a woman, I felt it was extremely helpful to have an info session for women with amazing female training officers.”
Following the info session she decided JIBC’s Fire Fighting Technologies Certificate (FFTC) program was the right fit for her. When she learned it was being offered as a part-time program, she jumped at the chance and enrolled in the first cohort.
“Being able to take the FFTC as a part-time program was absolutely amazing. I was able to keep my full-time job at the pool, have an income, and get the same training and hands-on experience as the full-time classes would,” she said. “The seven weeks were challenging, balancing work, school, family, life, physical training and sleep, but the best things in life are always the most challenging. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
Being able to take the FFTC as a part-time program was absolutely amazing. I was able to keep my full-time job, have an income, and get the same training and hands-on experience as the full-time classes would
The part-time FFTC program is the same as the full-time version – up to 12 weeks of online training followed by seven weeks of hands-on, live-fire training at JIBC’s Maple Ridge campus. There, students gain invaluable firefighting experience using simulation props at Western Canada’s most extensive firefighting training facility. They learn to effectively put out fires and safely rescue people using facilities like a three-storey concrete building designed to be regularly set ablaze, and vehicles they can practice cutting apart using the jaws-of-life.
“From spending hours rolling hose in the pouring rain and occasional hail storm to public education days to live fire training, every second was worth my time, money and energy,” Chantal said. “Each training officer and technician throughout the program was knowledgeable, enthusiastic, experienced, dedicated, and wanted to be there. This made for an incredible learning environment.”
Chantal went on to win two awards upon completion of the program – the Jon Baillie Memorial Award, which recognizes students demonstrating outstanding performance in academic and practical skills, teamwork, work ethic, leadership and professionalism; and the Jocelyn Roberts Memorial Award, which supports women applicants pursuing careers in the fire service. She is confident her JIBC experience and training will benefit her as she pursues a career as a firefighter.
“JIBC has given me what I need to excel in every aspect of my career … Not only will you learn the necessary skills that are required for a career in the fire service, you will also be pushed, tested, strengthened, and moulded. You will learn respect. You will overcome fears and challenges. You will be surrounded by others who want you to succeed, both training officers and your peers. Most importantly, you will know when you are done that you made the right choice.”
She added, “There was not a day that I wasn’t excited to go to school, even after long days of work on the weeknights or on the weekends after a long week. I knew that what awaited me at JIBC were dedicated training officers and technicians preparing me for the best job in the world.”
Applications are now being accepted for upcoming part-time and full-time classes of the program. For more information visit JIBC’s Fire Fighting Technologies Certificate program page.