When Salmon Arm firefighter Tammy Young gets home from practice or a call, she knows what to expect.
No matter the time, her whole family – sons 17 and 24, grandparents 81 and 82, and her husband will gather in the living room, waiting to hear how it went.
“It’s beautiful. It was meant to be in this family,” she says of firefighting.
Young has always known she wanted to be a firefighter. “Always, always.”
Her dream didn’t become a reality, though, until last summer.
She lives in Canoe and said she had driven by the sign ‘Firefighters wanted’ many, many times. She had always wanted to help people and she got to thinking, now that she was 42 and her boys were grown, maybe it was time.
She volunteered at the food bank but “I knew I had more – more I wanted to be and do and give.”
It also helped that someone overrode her self doubts and told her, ‘yes, you can do it.’
She decided to go and see what it would be like.
From day one, she felt welcome.
“Every part – the application, the meetings, the courses. Every part and every person sets you up for success.”
She went to her first practice in August 2022.
“I fell in love with it from that moment. My very first practice I was welcomed as if I had been part of the family forever. The inclusion was I guess nothing I ever could have expected.”
Asked if physical strength has been an issue, the answer is no. She said the job is very physical and you have to be fit, but there are techniques you are trained to use if, for example, you need to carry someone out a window.
“It’s always safety first.”
Young said she’s experienced no discrimination, only support and kindness.
“Not once have I felt anything other than pure sincere goodness.”
Another woman works out of Hall 1 in Canoe with her, and “she’s perfect, she treats me like a sister.”
Young and her husband and grandparents were watching a movie when her first call came in.
Young threw the remote in the air and ran. She said she was scared by the alarm but not the call. She couldn’t contain her excitement.
“I always show my emotions on my face and I ran in with a big smile.”
When she returned home, her family had paused the movie and was waiting for her.
“It was beautiful to see their excitement with me.”
Young doesn’t hesitate when asked if she’d recommend firefighting to other women.
“I would really recommend it to women and to men. I truly believe there are so many women out there who would excel and absolutely love it. If you’ve ever wanted and considered doing it, now is the time.”
Fire Chief Brad Shirley is equally pleased to see more female firefighters joining the Salmon Arm team. The department now has six women, three of whom are in the current recruit training program. Six is the most the department has seen.
“We’re certainly fortunate to have them. They’re a great asset to our team,” he said.
Along with Tammy Young in Canoe’s Hall 1 is Kendall Landry. In Hall 2 North Broadview are Jazmine MacMillan, Nathalie Augustin and Kelsey Gorgichuk. Ashley Boechler is in Hall 3 downtown.
For International Women’s Day, the Salmon Arm Fire Department is celebrating its female firefighters on Facebook.
“We recognize these incredible women of the Salmon Arm Fire Department for their ongoing commitment & dedication throughout each year, specifically on International Women’s Day, March 8th. Let’s all step forward and commit to #EmbraceEquity,” reads a post on the department’s page.
#Embrace Equity is the International Women’s Day 2023 campaign theme. The aim, stated on the official website, is “to get the world talking about Why equal opportunities aren’t enough. People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action.”
The BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) is also recognizing the contributions of women – those who fight wildfires. Their video is below. Women from Salmon Arm are regularly part of the wildfire service, often training with Rapattack, which has its base in Salmon Arm.
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