Firefighters in the Field: My First Wildfire Season – Rappel Firefighting
Hi everyone! Thanks for checking out my first blog post with Alberta Wildfire. A lot has passed since the beginning of my recruitment process, but hopefully I can give you a good feel for how exciting it’s been.
I applied for a position in the Rappel program in November. After making it through the pre-employment fitness testing and interview, I was invited to the Rappel recruit camp in April. I had no idea what to prepare for; all I could really do was follow the emails and make sure I was as physically fit as possible (for context: anyone considering to apply as a wildland firefighter, I definitely recommend getting into a running routine and body weight exercises). It was surreal driving to Hinton packed with gear for the spring while snow whipped past my Jeep on the highway, but as I learned during our 6am fitness outside it’s nothing layers couldn’t fix!
Recruit camp was a very unique experience. From the first full day we were launched into a daily routine of fitness and training. It was hard work but rewarding and turned our recruit class, who started off as complete strangers to me, into a tight knit group of friends. After completing the live rappels (which was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done), we looked back to the pictures and videos, and admired everything we accomplished together. It was incredible to see how close we had become as recruits; it seemed like we had been at this for months. We started this journey with a foot of snow on the ground and finished with hot sunny weather; it was quite the whirlwind!
Not a lot of time to relax though! After camp and crew selection, we began working in what for many of us is our first wildfire season. I was selected to be with Rap 8, based out of Lac La Biche. We haven’t been out here long, and I’m already loving every second of it. We have a great crew and I couldn’t be happier with my time so far. On our first day, we were fortunate enough to put our training to work and respond to our first fire. It was an incredible first time for me and the other rookies; one I’m sure we won’t forget.
There was a good water source available near the fire, but some muddy parts made it tricky to get the fire pump going. With some savvy tactics from the experienced firefighters, we got it running and began laying a hose perimeter around the wildfire. It was going just like we had practiced in our training as the hose lay and perimeter attack went really well. A few trees needed to come down in order to work safely, which was an experience that I still get excited about witnessing (as simple a task as that is). After two days of work we were able to put the wildfire onto patrol status and moved on to the next challenge.
After working our first wildfire together, it was clear my team members were always ready to get dirty and work hard. I’m looking forward to taking in everything I can learn from the experienced members on the crew, they are all incredibly talented at what they do. It’s already shaping up to be an exciting wildfire season, and I look forward to keeping you all posted as my adventures continue!
Until next time, so long from La Biche!