Vernon Students on the Front Lines of the Fires

Posted on August 21, 2018

As the smoky skies continue to linger in the Vernon area, a couple of former VSS students have been getting first hand experience in fighting fires.

Dakota Becker and Braeden Barnard began the process of joining the Jr. Fire Crew with the BC Wildfire Service back in March 2018. Over 140 students from School District 22 applied for 10 positions, where they would participate in approximately eight weeks of training.

In May, the 10 students started their training which included getting familiar with hose lays, setting up pumps, digging guards and getting the S-100 and S-185 certifications, Safety and Fire Entrapment Avoidance, including helicopter safety and much more.

In June, Dakota and Braeden were selected from the 10 students to continue working with BC Wildfire Services on the Fire Stalkers Unit Crew and Vernon Initial Attack crews over the summer. And over the last month and a half, Dakota and Braeden have been at the Vernon Base of the Kamloops Fire Centre for what has been called one of the worst fire seasons in B.C.’s history.

“It’s been hard. I’ve been gone for two weeks at a time, living in a tent, at fire camp, but this has been an amazing opportunity,” said Dakota Becker. “We spent a lot of time training and getting ready for the season. It’s the hardest I have ever worked, but I love every minute of it. I really encourage any student to get involved this great program.

“My favorite experiences so far have been the heli-rides, saving baby eagles from a burning tree in the Kamloops fire earlier this season, and the group mentality that you’re all going through hell but somehow everyone finds a way to stay positive and push each other through. No one is alone in this battle against the fires.”

The two former high school students will continue with BC Fire Services until the end of September, and then Dakota will take a much deserved break.

“I plan to play hockey over the fall and winter,” continued Dakota. “But I am eagerly awaiting Bootcamp next spring and can’t wait to fight fires again next summer.