Be the one fighting fires

Steve Oishi arrived at the scene of a serious crash where the driver was pinned inside. Thanks to his JIBC firefighter training, he knew just what to do. (Story by Wanda Chow / Photo by Jimmy Jeong)


Steve Oishi was working at the Big White Fire Department when the call came in of a car that had crashed head-on into a tree on the side of the road. On arrival, the fire crew found the dash had crumpled and pinned the driver inside.

As a graduate of the pre-employment firefighter training program at Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC), he knew just what to do at the scene.

“JIBC had taught me several techniques for auto-extrication, so when we couldn’t fit the hydraulic ram into the door to roll the dash off, we had to come up with a new plan of action,” said Steve, who was a resident work experience program firefighter at Big White at the time. All the techniques we used to remove the patient had been taught in some respect during my time at JIBC, and it no doubt made the process more efficient having those foundational skills.”

Steve had originally planned to become a physiotherapist, completing a bachelor’s degree in human kinetics, and working in the health and fitness field to move towards that goal. But then he realized that career choice wasn’t a good fit.

“I needed something a little more hands-on, exciting, and where I could really give back and be a big part of my community; firefighting hits all those points better than any career I can think of.”

He did his research, including speaking with firefighters from around BC. He found that JIBC’s program came highly recommended and, as a newcomer to the field, the amount of hands-on training he would receive was a huge selling point, he said.

Once in the program, Steve appreciated the opportunity to learn from training officers from fire departments across the Lower Mainland who each brought different techniques and a wealth of knowledge and experience.

“Although the JIBC program is more of a time commitment than some other ones, I liked the fact that we weren’t rushed through topics just to get a check mark. We actually spent time to make sure we understood and were competent in the material.”

Everyone in the class received ample hands-on training time at JIBC’s Maple Ridge campus, Western Canada’s most extensive firefighting training facility which is equipped with unique simulation props. On campus, students learn to extinguish fires and rescue people, such as from a three-storey concrete building designed to be regularly set alight to create real-life conditions, and vehicles are available to be cut apart with the jaws-of-life to simulate a rescue from a car wreck. It all culminated in live fire days near the end of the program.

“It was great to see all the skills we had learned over the months come together in real training evolutions, rolling into the scene in the engines, using radio communications, and working as teams to get the job done.”

Shortly after completing the program, Steve received the Irving K. Barber One World International Scholarship administered by the Victoria Foundation. This allowed him to volunteer on a three-week deployment to Panama with Fire Rescue International Training Association to support training for Panamanian firefighters.

Recently hired as a firefighter for Port Coquitlam Fire and Emergency Services, he credits the combination of JIBC’s hands-on training, the opportunity to help communities, and his work experience with helping him achieve his career goals.

“My JIBC training provided a strong foundation. Not only do you get quality training at a top-of-the-line training facility, but having a large group of mentors to ask questions and learn from was invaluable.”


For more information on JIBC’s pre-employment firefighter training program, visit the Fire Fighting Technologies Certificate program page.

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