My first night of training was fast approaching and I was getting a little nervous.
“Would everyone accept me?” and “would I be able to hold my own?” Questions like this plagued my brain, and I kept asking my husband if I was doing the right thing. Being the kind of guy he is, he set my mind at ease with calming responses of encouragement to my nervous self-doubt. After I got the babysitter settled in, we took off for the hall. Getting there first was good for me because it calmed me down a little, since I had been there many times before as a “civie.”
The rest of crew arrived and started to move equipment out of the hall, and I was trying not to get in the way. Another fairly new crew member handed me a pair of red coveralls and they fit like a glove, I couldn’t help but think how great this was going to be. Our Chief wasn’t there yet, so my husband started to outfit me with turnout gear. Now let me explain to you what a thrill it is to put on turnout gear…..pretty darn cool!!!!! I kept thinking, I’m doing what every kid wants to do, but I’m doing it for real! I managed to get pants, a jacket and a helmet before the Chief arrived.
Things start to buzz once everyone is there, and they start to discuss what training is going to be done that night. (We have a Training Officer, but he isn’t available in the summer, since he runs an organic farm). I’m thinking to myself, “girl, you are about to ride on an engine!” then I hear from the Chief that we are doing a Forestry drill behind the station. My dreams of riding on the engine are dashed already.
One of the ladies drives the Mini Pumper to the back of the hall, and some of the guys unload the ‘bathtub’ from the tanker, and proceed to fill it with the water in the tanker. Chief is giving instructions to a few of the crew on how to start and run the pump on the Mini Pumper to pump water from the bathtub into the Mini Pumper, and then into our foam machine. Two ’50 lengths of inch and a half are put together, and run into the bush behind the hall, and my husband takes two of the crew to fill the tanker from a hydrant at the resort nearby.
I am instructed by the Chief to stick close to him and watch carefully, I become his shadow…, and radio person to communicate to the crew member on the hose. The foam machine is put into action, and boy, does it stink!
After awhile I am sent to the nozzle of the hose, and told how to hold it, turn it off, change spray and such, then I grab a hold of that puppy, (let me tell you, if you aren’t used to that kind of action, it can spook you!)
The guy who had the hose right before me became my backup, and the Chief told me to advance the line. (people, we need to work together here!) I was climbing up this steep enbankment, when I feel myself being pulled to one side. I look over and see my ‘backup’ heading up the hill to my right, AHEAD of me! The Chief stops him and teaches him how to be a ‘backup,’ and we were able to advance the line further with no problem.
After the hose training, we were all given picks and shovels and told to make a fire break around the hall. I don’t think I have ever seen my husband work that hard on the yard at home……;] We all joked about who was going to get him to come do their yard work, but deep down, I felt really proud.
After the fire break, we were given personal water tanks filled with water and foam and told to put out spot fires. (Ok, imagine a steel tank on your back with 50 lbs. of water in it, Very heavy!) We were all getting pretty hot and tired by this time, so the jokes started to fly about nozzels not working, and going to the doctor to have it fixed up…….I almost fell over from the laughter…. and the tank. Tanks were emptied, filled up and then…….Scot airpack time!
We head back into the hall, equipment is put back and Chief announces that “boots” have to suit up with airpacks. Thank goodness the Chief is there to walk me through the first time….not too difficult, but I don’t want to be timed yet!
After the airpacks, everyone grabs a pop and heads home. I’m feeling more tired than I did after giving birth…. but I’ve never felt more at peace with myself. My husband loads my into the truck, and we head home. I get into the shower and start to count the bruises on and under my arms, but I feel that they are badges of honour. I ahve done my self proud, and my husband is standing at the door of the bathroom grinning at me…..I think I did ok!