NWT Fire held its first training event exclusively for women and non-binary folks from Aug. 9 to 13.

The program, which was hosted at the Frank Channel fire base, was the result of a conversation about how make firefighting more inclusive, organizers say.

“This is one of the suggestions that came up, to have a camp that was held exclusively for women and non-binary people,” said Angel Simon, lead instructor at the event. “Sometimes people felt there may be scrutiny if they went into a course that was mainly dominated by males. We just wanted to give them a place where they felt safe and secure…”

Though the training event has now passed, this is certainly not the last we’ll see of the program, Simon says.

“We just talked about that today [Aug. 18], so this is not going to be a one and done,” said Simon. “This is going to be something that continues from now on. We want to increase the numbers of women and non-binary people in the forest program, so this is definitely a step in the right direction.”

While plans for future events have yet to be solidified, Simon says they’ll definitely be different than the 2021 event.

“Since this was the first go at it, we definitely have to improve on some things,” said Simon. “Just make it better moving forward.”

One participant of the course, Yellowknife resident Shawna Cook, would re-attend the program in a heartbeat, finding a loss of words when describing her time there.

“It was just unexplainable how that experience was,” said Cook. “I enjoyed every moment of being out there.”

Though Cook did struggle at some points, that worked as motivation for her to continue pressing forward.

“We had a relay race where I had to carry a pump, hose, bags,” said Cook. “During it I just wanted to give up, but I just kept on pushing myself. I didn’t care about my time, I just wanted to get it done. Anybody can do that if they really put their mind to it.”

Hearing about the program through her partner, Cook was intentionally surprised that the course was just for women and non-binary individuals.

“It’s something I always wanted to pursue,” said Cook. “It’s awesome that they were giving a chance for ladies to experience it and get qualified to be an EFF (Emergency Firefighter).”

Simon offered some advice for individuals, like Cook, who are interested in future fire-training courses.

“Attend the courses when they come up,” said Simon. “Whether it’s strictly for women and non-binary or everybody. We’re here, we’re open. We want you to learn. It’s nothing we’re going to push you away from.”

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