Many young children dream of being a firefighter. It could be the draw of the big, flashy trucks or it could be a basic human instinct to help others.
Whatever the inspiration, some turn to different career paths as they grow up, but for others that desire to fight fires never fades away.
Four Grade 11 Belmont secondary students were recently given the chance to live out that dream and experience life as a firefighter for a day at Langford Fire Rescue’s No.1 Hall.
Gavin Aubrey was among those students, but he has a bit of a head start on firefighting knowledge as the son of Assistant Chief Chris Aubrey.
“Growing up around the hall was pretty great … The guys always treated me as one of their own,” Gavin said. “I was in rooms filled with role models my entire life.”
While he has a pretty good idea what his father does, the recent experience gave him a firsthand glimpse into the realities of the job. “I got to see what he did when he first started, all the way up until now. We got the rundown on what it’s like to be a firefighter.”
The student group even got to experience some of those realities. Besides putting on turnout gear again and again until they were fast enough to respond to a call, the boys also got to practise some drills in all that equipment.
“I learned a lot about how hot the gear is and how hard they have to work,” Gavin said. “We also got to cut a roof off of a car, which was amazing. It gave us a taste of all aspects.”
While this opportunity was open to any interested students, it was the four students who have been accepted into the department’s junior program that took part in the day, as a prelude to their continuous training.
Aubrey, along with Rhys Carby, Jakob Dielschneider and Patrick Dolejs began the multi-year program that will prepare them to become volunteer firefighters once they are old enough. This practical training takes place after school on Fridays from 3 until 4:30 p.m. throughout the school year, with the exception of exam weeks and holidays. They’ll join the rest of the department’s recruits when they turn 19.
Assistant Chief Scott Davidson, the department’s chief training officer, was optimistic about this year’s junior program recruits. “They seem like really keen young men willing to learn,” he said. “We’re looking for those kids … that want to better themselves.”
He said the firefighter for a day program was a way to “whet their appetite” and to see if they were interested in continuing their training.
“We’ve had really good success with our junior program,” he said.
Since 2003, more than 20 students have gone through the program and some have moved on to career departments in cities including Vancouver, Kamloops and Victoria.
The goals of the junior program are two-fold, said Davidson, the first of which is to develop their skills so they stay on as volunteers or potentially career firefighters in the community. The second is to “provide an opportunity to mentor and foster good citizens.”
The younger Aubrey is one of a few family members who have gone through the program after growing up around the hall. “It just shows we are a family-based organization,” Davidson said.
Aubrey wants sign on as a volunteer as soon as he hits 19, but isn’t sure yet about pursuing firefighting as a full-time career. His current aspirations are leading him towards becoming a trauma surgeon, a position for which years of serving as a first responder will go a long way to prepare him.