Meet Sarah Arngna’naaq: On-call firefighter and Crown prosecutor - Keeping Canada Safe - CBC-TV
Meet Sarah Arngna’naaq: On-call firefighter and Crown prosecutor
Meet Sarah Arngna’naaq: On-call firefighter and Crown prosecutor

Fighting fires in Yellowknife is a part-time job for Sarah. Her full-time work is as a lawyer — she works as a Crown prosecutor with the Nunavut office of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. Sarah lives in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

What personality traits are best suited to your job?

There are a wide variety of personality types in the Fire Department. One thing that’s important is to be able to operate with very little sleep. And it takes a certain type of person, one who’s willing to take risks, to walk into a burning house.

"Firefighting gives me a strong sense of giving back to my community. I definitely don’t do this job for the money!"

How does your career create value in your life? (besides a pay cheque!)

This job requires a very different skill set than my full-time job. I’ve developed some skills that give me a sense of accomplishment. For example, I’ve developed mechanical skills. I’ve learned about building construction, and I know how to operate a chain saw. I don’t think I’d have those skills if it wasn’t for doing this job. 

What is the biggest motivator for you?

Firefighting gives me a strong sense of giving back to my community. I definitely don’t do this job for the money! The adrenaline that gets flowing when we get called out is a motivator. And the job is very physical, so I’m motivated to stay in good physical condition. 

Describe your best day on the job.

I don’t think there’s one specific day. It feels good to walk away from a fire scene feeling that I’ve done something to help someone or my community, that I’ve contributed something meaningful. That’s a good day.

What was your hardest day on the job?

I had a callout that required 15 hours on a fire scene. That was after putting in a full day’s work at my other job. I didn’t sleep for several days. That was really tough.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned by doing this work?

This job has been a good reminder for me to keep trying new things and stay open to new experiences. I didn’t know I’d be able to do this work, or even whether I’d like it. But four years later, I’m still enjoying it. So don’t assume you can’t do something, no matter how impossible it might seem.

What is the proudest moment of your career?

I’d attended fire scenes before I became a lawyer. But achieving my Level 1001 (“ten oh one”) to become a fully-certified firefighter was a proud moment.

"Don’t assume you can’t do something, no matter how impossible it might seem."

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in this job?

In the Yellowknife Fire Department, we have full-time and paid on-call firefighters. It takes time to earn the trust of your co-workers. I work with a specific platoon, and they know what I can do now. But it took time to demonstrate my abilities to perform in a real fire situation. It does take time to prove your commitment and your capabilities and you might find yourself mopping floors for a while. Don’t get discouraged, stick with it, and commit yourself. 

Also, if you make a mis-step, you may have to work extra hard to rebuild the confidence of your platoon.

Who is/was your biggest inspiration in life?

My mother was a teacher, and she was a big motivator for me. Education was a huge focus for her, and she instilled the importance of that and a love for learning in me for my entire life. I wouldn’t be where I am now without her.

I’ve also had some great mentors along the way.

Just for fun: What’s your favourite book or movie? Why?

Hmmm, I’m not good at picking favourites. And I’m a lawyer, you know, so I don’t necessarily want to commit myself to one answer (laughs). But I do enjoy science fiction and dystopian novels like those by Margaret Atwood. She’s a favourite.

Related stories:

Also on CBC