First firefighting camp for girls coming to Kingston
A group of female firefighters from Kingston and surrounding areas are bringing a free firefighting camp for girls to Kingston this July.
Girls in Gear is offered by Women in Fire YGK, in partnership with Kingston Fire and Rescue, and will be open to those who identify as a female aged 15 to 18.
Chantal Rice, a volunteer firefighter and member of Women in Fire YGK, said they’ve wanted to hold the camp for a few years and this year they have enough women locally who are volunteer or career firefighters to put a board together. Rice said it’s an opportunity for young girls to see firefighting as an accessible career to them, and ultimately to build confidence.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for girls to try new things and realize that they are capable of doing more than they think they are,” Rice expressed. “And our goal really is to build confidence.”
Rice said something like this wasn’t available when she and her cohorts were younger, and if it was, they might have found themselves in the industry earlier in life. The industry is heavily male-dominated and Rice noted that it can still be intimidating for women who are trying to enter the field.
“I would say it is still intimidating,” Rice said. “You want to show somebody that you can do it and you can have somebody’s back on the job.”
That being said, a number of men from Kingston Fire and Rescue are helping with the camp and working together to promote the message that girls can do the job, as well, and Rice said they’ve been very supportive of the camp.
“They’re probably almost as excited as we are,” she said.
During the camp, girls will spend a few full days going through different tasks and skills that a firefighter may encounter in a typical day, including fire suppression activities, repelling, forcible entry, and medical scenarios.
The camp is free, including lunch, thanks to support from Kingston Fire and Rescue, and the group is reaching out to businesses for sponsorship opportunities.
This will be the first camp of its kind in Kingston, following in the footsteps of similar camps held in Ottawa and Belleville, and Women in Fire YGK hope to make it annual. Belleville’s camp, Camp Molly, was actually founded by new Kingston Fire Chief Monique Belair during her time as Fire Chief in Belleville.
Rice encourages any girls who have been interested in firefighting to try out Girls in Gear, and consider firefighting as a legitimate career option. She said the job is really rewarding for those willing to put in the work.
“You get to help people in the community and work with so many different demographics. You’re there on somebody’s worst day, their worst moment, so you just want to make it better,” Rice said.
“It’s physically demanding, it’s mentally demanding… But it’s the best job in the world.”
The camp runs from July 17 to 20 with applications for the 30 available spaces due Monday, Apr. 24, 2023. Learn more about Girls in Gear on their website.
Owen Fullerton is a reporter based in Kingston with the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI).