Salmon Arm  

Calling all firefighters

She's not big, she's not burly, but Kara Slous is every bit a firefighter as anyone in the department.

The 25 year old joined the Tappen-Sunnybrae Fire Department four years ago and has held the titles of captain, training officer, a member of the Shuswap Emergency Program Structural Protection Unit, the Area C representative for the Occupational Health and Safety Committee, co-chair of the Fire Services Occupational Health and Safety Committee and was recently certified as a CSRD Live Fire Instructor.

Like so many in the field, Slous joined the department out of a desire to help others,

"Firefighting has taught me so much about myself. It's not all learning fire skills. I've learned about leadership, about teamwork. Becoming a firefighter is about improving yourself while helping others," she said.

Currently all fire departments in the Columbia Shuswap Regional District are actively looking for new members. Recruits are needed to maintain appropriate standards of operation and fire fighters provide a critical service to their communities. Volunteers are paid on-call for their response, training and practices. As well, all required personal protective equipment and training are provided – there are no out-of-pocket costs.

Slous said there's a lot of satisfaction in driving up to a scene knowing you have the skills and training to be helping others on what can be one of the worst days of their lives.

"It's about seeing the whole picture – knowing how to follow and when to lead. It's about facing fears and finding strength to make decisions in the worst circumstances. It's not about being a hero. It's not about us, it's about them," Slous said.

As a young woman, Slous is not the typical image of a firefighter, but she has not experienced the sting of sexism during her years at the fire department, noting it would not be tolerated.

There are eight women currently stationed at the Tappen-Sunnybrae fire hall and many other women helping throughout the region.

"You do the work, you be respectful of the training and everyone will see you as a firefighter. We all have different skills and abilities, but there hasn't been any firefighting job or skill that I haven't been able to find my way to accomplish. That goes the same for everyone, woman or man,” she said.

Prospective volunteers are welcome to go to any CSRD fire hall on training night and find out more. For more information, call Sean Coubrough, fire services co-ordinator, at 250-833-5955 or email [email protected]

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