Frigid fire fighting Inuvik volunteer firefighters train above the Arctic Circle

Click on the slideshow above to view captions.Photo: Samantha Stokell.

Even though fire departments across Canada struggle to fill their ranks, the Inuvik Volunteer Fire Department in Inuvik has no such troubles.

Since the department gained new fire chief Jim Sawkins in November, the department has filled to over 30 members and has a wait list of community members wanting to join its ranks. Part of the appeal is the training that Sawkins brings: he has over 30 years experience in firefighting in the Armed Forces and civilian departments, priding himself on re-training volunteer departments in Ontario before moving North.

On Feb. 25–26, March 3–4 and March 10–11, Sawkins and experienced firefighters taught basic recruit training in offensive and defensive operations.

The final weekend on March 10–11 had the volunteers facing frigid -40C temperatures in an abandoned seniors’ home to practice the new search and rescue techniques in smoke-filled rooms. On March 11 the fire fighters practiced in the burn house – a corrugated steel building with four rooms and abandoned furniture where they lit straw and wooden pallets on fire.

The hands-on training allowed the firefighters to practice and perfect the skills without the adrenalin of a real fire clouding their performance.

With new, up-to-date equipment for the department on the way and more training in the future, it’s likely the department won’t have to search for new members any time soon.

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