Two firefighters from Eskasoni, Nova Scotia, crouch as they finish replacing a 15 meter section of fire hose and their teammates take aim at a target 100 feet away. Nearby, firefighters from Fort Mackay, Alberta, huddle together for last-minute strategizing. The task ahead is to replace a burst length of hose and they are hoping to do it faster, and better, than the team before them. These firefighters are representing their respective regions at the 2012 National Aboriginal Firefighters Competition and are ready to put their skills to the test.
On August 18, 2012, eight competing teams from Aboriginal communities across Canada took their shot at the first place title in Elsipogtog First Nation, New Brunswick. The highly competitive event is made up of a series of challenges in which speed, strength, accuracy, and above all, teamwork, are key to success. This year, firefighters faced three daunting evolutions, which is the term for firefighting challenges. The first evolution, the dual 38-mm attack line, was to advance two attack lines with 45 meters in length of hose, and discharge water to hit a target using the proper fire stream. The second evolution was the high flow knockdown, where two hose lines, of 65 mm and 38 mm respectively, are advanced to hit a target. The last evolution was to replace a burst length of hose.
Every year, the competition features slightly different evolutions. Firefighters could be facing challenges such as endurance relays, fire extinguishing, hose rolling, and attack lines with ladders.
The scores and winners are announced at an awards ceremony at the end of this exciting and exhausting event. The 2012 winning team, from the Black Lake Denesuline First Nation, Saskatchewan, won the first-place trophy with an impressive score of 290 out of a possible 300 points. At this event, however, winning is only part of the excitement. The highly regarded 2012 Max McNeil Most Sportsmanlike Award was given to the Nunavut team for their selfless, supportive and positive attitude throughout the competition. As a team that had come together only a few days before the competition, they exemplified the true value that teamwork and dedication have in this competition.
According to Jesse Brant, a firefighter from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, the emphasis on these values has been attracting younger recruits to their department. "We get new recruits that want to meet the challenges set by the competition. Young people come by the fire hall when they're done school or work to watch us practice. We tell them about our experiences at the competition and say, 'it's really important to be able to get dressed in full gear in under 50 seconds.' Then we practice it."
Billy Moffat, President of the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC), agrees that recruiting youth is essential to addressing the ever-changing landscape of fire protection services across the country. With funding from AANDC, AFAC coordinates the annual competition along with many other fire prevention activities across the country, including the National Fire Poster Contest . At the awards ceremony, Mr. Moffat repeated a resounding message to the firefighters: When firefighting teams dedicate themselves to the cause, and therefore to each other, they ensure that Aboriginal communities are kept safe and informed. With teams such as these across the country, the future looks good.
For more information about this year's competition, please visit AANDC's fire prevention site.