Be the one fighting fires

August 10, 2016 - Vancouver, BC - Photos for JIBC. Photos by Jimmy Jeong

Adam Iwama credits his JIBC training with helping him successfully transition from work in kinesiology to a second career as a firefighter. (Story by Wanda Chow / Photo by Jimmy Jeong)


Every day on the job with Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service, Adam Iwama is reminded of the lessons he learned during his firefighter training at Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC).

Adam was part of a fire crew recently called out to a fire at a rubber mat-manufacturing plant.

“The call came in as a small smoldering fire and naturally, we expected just that. However things took a quick turn when we pulled out of the hall to a large plume of thick black smoke coming from the area.”

When they arrived, they found a huge blaze outside fuelled by pallets loaded with rubber mats. They were very close to the side of the building which threatened to catch fire too.

It would be a big job to tackle in any case, but since they were responding to what was reported as a minor fire, they were the only fire engine on scene until additional crews could show up following his captain’s update.

“Being understaffed for a period of time at such a fire called on us to be extremely efficient with our resources and left us with absolutely no room for error in our techniques employed in efforts to keep the building from catching,” Adam recalled.

“During this fire more than any other one to date, it was critical for me to utilize the training I received from JIBC. How to individually manage a 2.5-inch fire hose line for an extended period of time, to conserve your air intake while exerting high energy, and how to communicate in a very dynamic and challenging environment are but some of the skills taught to me at the Maple Ridge campus that I employed.”

Unlike many of his colleagues, Adam did not come to the Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service from among the ranks of its auxiliary firefighters. Nor did he always want to be a firefighter, having started out in the field of kinesiology before transitioning to his new career a few years ago.

But in a relatively short period of time, after going through the rigorous recruitment process, he was hired as a full-time firefighter in the department. He credits the training and relationships he built through JIBC’s pre-employment firefighting program (now called the Fire Fighting Technologies Certificate), as playing an instrumental role in helping him secure his post as a firefighter.

“I lacked that auxiliary work experience. What I did have was a solid period of constant skill instruction and practical application at JIBC.  I had training officers who, as captains in local departments, offered accurate and current teaching that reflected the expectations we would be held to once hired on as probationary firefighters.”

While there are other firefighter schools across North America, Adam chose JIBC because of the extensive hands-on experience it provides. In the Fire Fighting Technologies Certificate program, students gain seven weeks of hands-on, live-fire training at the Maple Ridge campus where students learn with the help of unique simulation props at Western Canada’s most extensive firefighting training facility. On campus, students learn to put out 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.

Just as valuable as the time spent having lessons drilled into their heads, both in the classroom and out in scenario training, was learning from the experiences shared by veteran firefighters who served as their instructors. A key lesson he’s never forgotten is the importance of maintaining healthy and respectful relationships with colleagues as they work, eat, clean and essentially live together.  

“This part of the job was not overlooked in JIBC’s program planning. Our Training Officers emphasized this in every minute between classroom teaching and fire-ground training.”

Thanks to JIBC’s training, Adam is grateful for having found his calling in his second career.

“A career in the fire service is equal parts, challenging, exciting, and rewarding. Every shift, and every call is different and it has become something I feel very fortunate to call a career.”


For more information on firefighting courses and programs, visit JIBC Fire & Safety Division.


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