Submitted by Roslyn Johnson
Southeast Fire Centre Communications Assistant
For almost 20 years, the B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) has been running a successful Junior Fire Crew Member Program in British Columbia. This program is coordinated between BCWS and local school districts to provide career development opportunities for high-school students in wildfire response.
Here in Invermere, the local BCWS Invermere Fire Zone coordinates with David Thompson Secondary School and each year a handful of selected students undergo extensive wildfire response training to earn two high school credits. They then train for and complete the standard hiring process for B.C. wildfire, which includes a fitness test, written test, and an interview. One lucky student earns a place as a fully functioning fire crew member at the Invermere Fire Zone for the fire season.
Dana Angebrandt works to complete a planned ignition operation as part of her experience as a Junior Crew Member with BCWS in Invermere.
Junior Fire Crew Members act as crew members on the Invermere Initial Attack fire crews, responding to wildfires by truck or helicopter throughout the local area and B.C. Their fireline duties are varied and could include anything from establishing and operating water delivery systems for fire suppression or creating fire guards and as well as skills training, fitness, wildfire prevention activities and community projects.
“I got to experience so many different things, like blacklining and burn operations, as well as helicopter flights and hover exit/entries,” says Angebrandt, Invermere Fire Zones’s 2021 Junior Crew Member.
The program aims for students to gain meaningful, well-paid employment with a schedule that supports post-secondary education. “This [program] was a great experience because I got to meet so many new people, learn so many new things and try new things as well… I learned so much about how much I can push myself to grow, and about what career paths there are with BCWS,” explains Angebrandt.
The seasonal nature of the wildfire season means that students are well positioned to pursue post-secondary education after the completion of the program. Many students return the next summer to continue to build their careers with BCWS. When asked if she will be returning next year, Angebrandt responded with an adamant ‘Yes’ and went on to explain, “I am going to be applying for a position with BCWS for next summer. It was just such a great experience that I look forward to having the opportunity to do it again.”
Her advice to anyone who is thinking about participating in the program is, “I would recommend this to others, especially students,” she says. “Don’t doubt yourself, you can do more than you think, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have concerns or don’t understand something, your co-workers will be more than happy to help you.”
If you or someone you know is interested in the Junior Crew Member Program, contact the career councillor at David Thompson Secondary School. Targeted recruitment for Junior Crew members are individuals who will be 17+ years of age during fire season, have an aptitude for the work duties of a wildland firefighter, and have an interest in the program.