Volunteer firefighters band together during training exercise at Star Blanket Cree Nation
Event was the first of its kind in the area
A group of volunteer firefighters got their first chance to battle a roaring blaze during a live-action training exercise at Star Blanket Cree Nation.
Saskatchewan First Nations Emergency Management (SFNEM) hosted a training session on the reserve near Fort Qu'Appelle, Sask., on Thursday for volunteer firefighters in southern Saskatchewan.
Participants got hands-on experience putting out fires using an abandoned duplex.
They were first tasked with safely and efficiently putting out fires set inside the building. Then the rest of the duplex was lit to demonstrate how fast a house can burn down.
It was the first training event involving fire departments from multiple First Nations and towns ever held in the area.
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Volunteer firefighters from the Peepeekisis Cree Nation, Star Blanket Cree Nation and Okanese First Nation were among those in attendance.
"I honestly think it's wonderful what we're doing here," said Clarence Stonechild, fire chief for Okanese.
"Working together, that's out goal, is work with other First Nations to better our First Nations and also to save our First Nations money," he said.
"I'm very proud of all of our firefighters that showed up today."
The event aimed to unify local fire departments and give volunteer firefighters as much hands-on experience as possible.
"We're here to try and help people out and get them out of a bad situation ... so that's kind of what's important about this training here is to learn to do that stuff in a safe and efficient manner," said Tyrone Mogenson, fire chief for the city of Melville and one of the instructors.
"We're everyday people, we're not heroes."
'This is well needed in our community'
Bobbi-Joe Starr, from Star Blanket Cree Nation, was one of the volunteer firefighters in attendance.
"This is well-needed in our community," she said.
"Working together with Peepeekisis and Okanese starting this pilot project for volunteer firefighters will also bring comfort knowing that we can be prepared."
Starr said she and the other volunteers felt empowered being trained by fire officials from places like Melville and Prince Albert.
Starr was also one of only two women in attendance. She said she hopes her presence inspires other women to become firefighters.
"It's not a man's world, right, so lets get on board, ladies."
Pierce Pellerin, an instructor and an officer with SFNEM, said it's crucial for fire departments to understand each other's operations, which is why it's important for everyone to train together.
"There are lots of fires that go undetected on First Nation communities that aren't responded to by anybody," he said.
"The biggest thing is to build some independence within their own fire departments."
"Events like this, that we can have Melville and any other departments that came out, the fire commissioner's office, our department and all these First Nations firefighters together is extremely valuable."
Pellerin, along with many other firefighters and officials, said they hope for more live-action training events in the future.