Led by Mariah Gauthier, a group of high school students direct their hose into a simulated dumpster fire as a peer uses a pole to prop open the dumpster’s lid during the fourth day in a week of fire training for the students during spring break. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Penticton students tackle their first dumpster fire

High school students from PMSS and PSS are spending their spring break in firefighter training

A group of Penticton high school students got to test their firefighter instincts Thursday morning, tackling their first (simulated) dumpster fires.

Seven students from Princess Margaret Secondary and Penticton Secondary schools have been spending their spring break largely in classrooms with the Penticton Fire Department. But on Thursday, they busted out the hoses for some simulated live fire training.

Penticton high school students get into formation as they blast a simulated dumpster fire with their hose as the students undergo a week of fire training during spring break.
Dustin Godfrey/Western News
Penticton high school students get into formation as they blast a simulated dumpster fire with their hose as the students undergo a week of fire training during spring break.

Dustin Godfrey/Western News

“Today we’re just working with the gas props, and we’re going to be working in live fire,” said captain Wayne McKenzie with the fire department. “We’ve already done some car fires, and we’re going to be working now on a simulated garbage bin fire that’s a gas prop. And they’ll be working on putting it out and having a backup line.”

After three 10-hour days in the classroom at the fire department’s Station 202, it was a bit of excitement for the students to get out to some hands-on training.

“It feels good; it’s a lot of fun. Learning new stuff and learning how to put out fires,” said Princess Margaret student Max Lauder, who said he had already planned on being a firefighter in the future.

“When I was up there it was so smoky I couldn’t see at all, but we got the mask on so you can breath, so it’s good.”

Prior to that, McKenzie said the students got some training on using the hoses, but aside from that they were in the classrooms for the most part, learning things like safety.

“It’s good. We’re learning lots of new stuff everyday. We’re over in the mobile container over there, and we sit in the class, watch power points, learn how to tie knots and do a lot of stuff,” Lauder said.

The students are getting a total 100 hours of training in firefighting, with 60 hours in the classroom and the training grounds and the remainder split between three ride-alongs on weekends down the line.

“They’re not going to be fully qualified firefighters when they’re done, but we’re trying to give them a taste of it and they can see if they’d maybe like this job as a career path,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie said the students have shown plenty of enthusiasm, and are expected to head back to school to talk about their experience.

The fire department hopes it will gain traction, as officials hope to bring the program back for a second year next spring.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

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Deputy fire chief Dennis Smith (right) looks on as a team of Penticton high school students begin to close in on a simulated dumpster fire in a weeklong program of fire training during spring break. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

High school student Mariah Gauthier manages the fire hose nozzle, backed by two other students as deputy fire chief Dennis Smith looks on during spring break as high school students undergo a week of fire training. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Through a burnt out car they were conducting live fire training on earlier in the morning, a group of Penticton high school students are seen with a simulated dumpster fire in their crosshairs on day four of a weeklong firefighter training program during spring break. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

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