In Canada, 4.4 percent of firefighters identify as women.
In Edmonton, less than 1 percent do.
Edmonton Fire Rescue Services (EFRS) is committed to changing that picture by, among other things, going to camp. Camp Inspire, that is.
“I believe that diversity improves the strength of our team by giving us more ideas and life experiences for problem solving,” said Camp Inspire coordinator Daisy vanRavenswaay, who is an EFRS firefighter.
Camp Inspire is for women aged 18 and older, from all backgrounds, and from gender diverse communities, who want to learn more about the fire service. It’s a safe, hands-on opportunity to work alongside EFRS members, ask questions and meet others who are interested in the firefighting profession.
“Diversity improves the services we deliver,” vanRavenswaay said.
“Sometimes the people we serve need someone who speaks their language or knows about their cultural preference for medical care or someone who is just a safe, familiar face. We recognize that uniforms don’t mean safety to everyone.”
Safety and teamwork
The three-day camp starts with a safety orientation. Then, it’s time to gear up in real firefighting gear.
Supervised by current EFRS members, participants learn how to do search-and-rescue, how to break through a wall and how to attach hoses to fire hydrants. There’s time to practise rappelling from the training tower and time for putting out fires.
All of this happens with safety and teamwork top of mind.
Take a look at the sights and sounds—and flames—from a Camp Inspire session earlier this year:
“You can push through the limits”
Rachael Ip was one of the camp participants.
“Camp Inspire is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had in my life,” Ip said.
“No matter your size, race, gender or cultural background, as long as you are passionate about what you do to believe in yourself, you can push through the limits and achieve anything in life.”
Ip said she felt safe stepping out of her comfort zone.
“The teamwork and support is always there,” Ip said. “You get a taste of the firefighting culture and what it’s like being part of the team.”
Modern fire service evolving
For 115 years, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services has protected the lives, property and environment of Edmonton. Camp Inspire is an example of a modern fire service evolving to more accurately represent the people it serves.
“Throughout the years, the service has experienced many changes, like moving from horse-drawn fire carriages to motorized pump trucks,” said Fire Chief Joe Zatylny.
“In recent years, the department’s focus has shifted to breaking down barriers to mental health support and diversity within the service.”
Apply for next camp
The next Camp Inspire is set for September 17-19, 2021. Applications will be accepted until August 16, 2021. Full details on this free camp and how to apply can be found online at edmonton.ca/CampInspire.
EFRS welcomes diversity and encourages applications from women and gender diverse individuals who self-identify as LGBTQ2IA+, BIPOC, and/or as belonging to other underrepresented communities.
If you’re under the age of 18 and interested in firefighting, EFRS also offers a Fire Cadet Program.
Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post shows the Camp Inspire’s Class of June 2021 at the EFRS Poundmaker Training Facility.