OHSWEKEN – Threat of rain and thunder didn’t stop the National Firefighter Competition from commencing on Saturday, August 13, as the competition had a back up plan — to move from the Six Nations Fire and Emergency Services parking lot to indoors at the Gaylord Powless Arena.
The move to the GPA was commended by Representative of the Atlantic Aboriginal Firefighters Associate Allan Peterson, who has also been the Fire Chief in New Brunswick for 17 years.
“It’s an excellent job that they did,” said Peterson. “They even had that contingency plan; if something didn’t work outside they had the plan to bring it inside to the arena, it was perfect,” he said. “It seems like every year it’s still exciting to watch all of the teams competing.”
The arena floor had been transformed to host the teams in booths, with a split down the middle for two teams to go head to head. Peterson then said that this very competition has to be his 17th, and each year the teams compete in renditions of what are called evolutions, from the “bucket relay” to “hitting the target.”
“We have a manual, and there’s probably about 12-15 evolutions,” “When we have the AGM meeting, we have the evolutions picked from sort of like [picking straws], and from there each of the team captains picks one and we go with the first four,” he said, further stating that they pick an extra to be prepared for a tie.
But it isn’t all about the competition, explained Peterson.
“The whole team is having fun,” he said. “When we go out there I tell them ‘go out there and have fun, if the win happens good, if not, don’t worry about it. We’re out there to have fun, that’s the main thing,” he said, adding that the meetings that are held before the competition are also vital.
“We have the emergency missions operations too, and if any of the communities straight across Canada need any help in any which way; with proposals and what not, then we’re all here to help the communities,” he said.
But to get to to the National Competition, Blaine Wiggins, Executive Director of the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada said a team has to first get through Regionals.
“We have eight regions across Canada that come,” said Wiggins. “Seven of them are provinces that are based on INAC regions and then the Atlantic region and Nunavut, so we have a team from the Arctic here,” he said. “So, really the eight teams that are here represent a ton of other teams that have competed and [each team] should base their experience on professionalism and technique.”
“They’re here to basically compete for the National Aboriginal Firefighter Championship,” he said. “One of the other things that they’re competing for and is probably the most coveted, is the Most Sportsman-like Team, because that’s more about showing who they are and what they can do and that’s also about their attitude,” he said.
“The basic purpose around the entire competition isn’t just about competition and hoisting a trophy and saying ‘I’m the best,’” said Wiggins. “The purpose of it is to give our First Nations communities the opportunity to show case fire service, and not only the pride that they have, but also the work that they do,” he said.
Wiggins said that this is the 27th time the competition has happened and the evolutions have always been focused on the development of usable skills.
“Unlike the firefighter competitions you see on TV where they’re running up and down and carrying hoses, this and that; our evolutions are based on fire-ground skills. And actually, the more running that you do, the more you’re gonna lose here because we don’t do that on the actual ground. It really does emulate what they actually have to perform,” he said.
At the end of the day and after being up against the other eight teams, the Six Nations Emergency Firefighters came to perform at their best and won the competition to be 2016 National Firefighter Champions!