Fighting fire with kids: fire chief for a day

Shiny red trucks with ladders, flashing sirens, gigantic hoses, axes, stylish helmets, ferocious flames and billowing

Being a firefighter is a dream shared by many children.

Shiny red trucks with ladders, flashing sirens, gigantic hoses, axes, stylish helmets, ferocious flames and billowing smoke are often some of the romanticized images that run through a child’s mind when daydreaming about being a firefighter.

Thanks to the Lake Cowichan Fire Department, that dream can become a reality for  youth who display a proclivity for fire safety through the LCFD’s fire chief for a day program. The LFCD wants to make it clear to Lake Cowichan’s younger generations that fire prevention is no joke.

Each year, the LCFD holds a drawing and writing contest centred around fire safety at Palsson Elementary school, of which the winners are selected to be fire chiefs for a day. Lasting over a period of a few weeks, the winners receive some one-on-one instruction with LCFD’s crew on how to prevent fires and potentially save lives.

This year’s crop of young firefighters includes 10-year-olds’ Jessie McCoy and Divinity Arbec, as well as nine-year-old Sage De Pol.

Ray Bourassa is LCFD’s lieutenant and he was in charge of coordinating the fire chief for a day initiative. He enjoys working with children and was impressed by the youths’ enthusiasm towards fire safety.

“It’s great. This is right up my alley. The kids have been excellent,” he said.

Bourassa has coordinated the program in years past and knows it’s important to instil fire prevention practices in children at an early age.

“It’s to get the kids interested in the repetition of fire prevention and what to do and what not do. It’s to get the awareness of the proper things to do out there,” added Bourassa.

Brimming with curiosity, McCoy was overly ecstatic for her experience, hopeful that she, too could one day save a life from what she will learn from Bourassa.

“I can’t wait to ride in the fire truck and learn how to use it — all the pumps and stuff and what they do. I’m curious,” said McCoy.

De Pol was equally excited to get thrown into the mix of firefighting.

“It’s fun. I get to learn new things. And I think it’s really cool learning this new stuff about fires,” said De Pol.

Doug Knott is the LCFD’s fire chief and he too is a big supporter of the fire chief for a day program. He’s hoping that McCoy, De Pol and Arbec will spread the word amongst their friends.

“What we’re hoping is they can give feedback [on fire protection] in the schools. They’ll get something they can wear to school — a t-shirt or something. If they’re given a fire prevention shirt or a hat and they see some neat things they’ll relate that back to their peers and it will produce a little more interest. That’s what we’re trying to do,” said Knott.

At some point McCoy, De Pol and Arbec will also partake in a mock home evacuation.