Wildfire recruits partake in training near Hinton

Hundreds of new recruits are training for the wildfire season in Alberta. Laura Krause gets an up close look at how the new firefighters are training for the job

As Alberta prepares for another threatening wildfire season, new firefighter recruits are out in the field extinguishing staged fires as they prepare for real-life scenarios on the job.

More than 40 new firefighters finishing up their week-long training to become a wildland firefighter were flying into a staged fire situation outside of Hinton where they put their skills and knowledge to the test

“We’ve learned over the last week how to recognize fire behaviour, how to treat fires, and how to take care of everything safety so we kind of have all the knowledge in our heads right now so it’s really exciting to actually get on the ground and do the job itself,” said Aaron Kurd, firefighting recruit.

Fires were burning and smoke filled the air as the new recruits hiked their gear into the forest where they had to quickly find a water source and begin pumping water to put out a perimeter fire.

The goal, is to make the scenario as realistic as possible.

“It’s critical to make sure these new staff can work safely in a fire environment. We don’t know how fast and furious fires are going to show up this spring, but these folks need to be prepared to work safely and effectively when they show up to their first wildfire,” explained Nicole Galambos, the director of the Hinton Training Centre.

Emma Scullion, Wildfire Training Specialist added, “The pumps are running. You can hear them running in the background. The helicopters are overhead and you’re sort of feeling a bit of adrenaline, that’s definitely really normal and kind of what it’s like in real life. Obviously, there’s the added factor of it not being as controlled and that it can be an even more intense experience but it’s pretty similar. I think we do a good job of making it as accurate as we can.”

Despite the recent snow and rain, Alberta Wildfire is gearing up for another challenging season due to drought-like conditions across most of the province.

“Things are still quite dry out there. We did get some snow in March but it’s still a mixed bag. Some areas of the province got a lot more than others, so we’re still looking at drought-like conditions going into this wildfire season,” said Josee St-Onge, information officer with Alberta Wildfire.

“We are preparing for what could be a challenging season, but there is still a lot of factors that could change things so we are waiting to see what the spring rains will look like.

“We’re gearing up for a busy season because we are still seeing drought-like conditions in most of the province.”

Firefighter recruits partake in trying near Hinton. (Photo Credit: Laura Krause, CityNews)

Kurd is one of the new recruits. He says he saw the devastation caused by wildfires last season, which inspired him to work on the front lines.

“I was watching the news last year and I saw how the wildfires were actually impacting communities in Alberta, and I really didn’t know much about wildfires and the impact they had, so after seeing that on the news and after doing a little bit of research I noticed that this job would really be in line with what I’m interested in doing, and it would be a meaningful job that would have a big impact on Canada itself,” he explained.

Alberta wildfire will have more than 500 new firefighters trained by mid-May.

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