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Wildfire group training First Nation and Métis firefighters after 4-year hiatus

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CCI Wildfire Services is back training the next generation of First Nation and Métis wildfire firefighters. After a four-year break, partially because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still lots of interest in the training. Erik Bay has more. – Oct 29, 2021

It’s been a long time coming for CCI Wildfire Services.

The company trains First Nation and Métis firefighters and Friday marked the fifth and final day of the firetack course for its latest class of recruits, the first in four years for the program.

Despite the break, interest remains high and firetack trainees like Duke Plain Eagle are enjoying the process.

“It’s pretty good,” Plain Eagle said. “It’s a pretty good experience, especially in the snow.”

Trainees are given hands-on work and put through their paces on everything from running pumps to fire behaviour, all things Braydon Big Sorrel Horse will need to know to fight wildland fires.

Read more: New program teaches First Nations and Metis trainees to fight wildfires

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“You’re going to be out there and you’re going to have to do it,” Big Sorrel Horse said.

“There’s no mistakes, you can’t have mistakes because there’s a fire coming. You have to learn how to turn on the pump so you can get water to the fire.”

“As soon as the weather changes … they’re ready to go from here right to a crew,” instructor Bryan McNallie said. “They’re going to learn every day out there, we teach them the basics.”

CCI is currently contracted by Alberta forestry and has an eight-man base crew, made up of mostly First Nation and Métis members that fights fires around the province.

McNallie has taught multiple courses for CCI and is now seeing his students on the frontlines.

“I see guys who are leaders of crews now and they’ll come up to me and say ‘hey you taught me eight years ago’ and it makes me feel good seeing that sort of thing,” McNallie said. “There’s some good guys here for sure.”

With the program wrapping up its latest session, the firetack trainees are already looking to the future, hoping to join those battling blazes across Alberta.

“(I want to) work next summer during the wildfire season hopefully,” Big Sorrel Horse said. “It’s a fun job. They say they might hire some people for winter time so hopefully I get on there.”

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“Maybe make a career out of it and move up in the levels,” trainee Kolby Bastien said.

CCI is planning for another course in the spring of 2022.

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