JIBC grad uses education protecting Canada’s most northern military post

CAF Sergeant Charles Wigger at CFS Alert

Sergeant Charles Wigger is on top of the world. Well, almost.

For the past three months, the military firefighter from CFB Comox has been stationed at Canadian Forces Station Alert, the most northerly, permanently inhabited location in the world.

It’s been an incredible experience for the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) graduate who completed his diploma from the JIBC Fire & Safety Division earlier this year.

“Working up there has been a highlight of my career,” said Charles in an interview during his two week-long leave.

Part of a team of five military firefighters, Charles’ main responsibility includes providing structural and aircraft firefighting for the station. He is also involved in training the civilian volunteer firefighters made up of the base’s support staff.

“Being up there in a remote location, working with five unique individuals from bases located across Canada, and then add volunteer civilians into the mix, it’s definitely a challenge up there. But it’s very interesting.”

JIBC education supports work up north

Hercules takes off from CFS Alert


The education he received through JIBC over the years have certainly come in handy for Charles, who was promoted during his deployment in Alert and will become deputy fire chief of the base when he returns in early October for the second half of his six-month deployment.

“There are some techniques I’ve learned and seen from some of the instructors and fellow students that have been useful when it comes to working and interacting with civilians,” said Charles. “Some of the courses I was in also had deputy fire chiefs and fire chiefs as fellow students and some of the nuggets of wisdom they passed on to me have definitely helped with my role up in Alert and in CFB Comox.”

Charles is among a growing number of fire and rescue professionals serving in Canada’s North to receive JIBC training. Over the past few years, JIBC’s Fire & Safety Division has continued to expand where it provides training. Earlier this year, JIBC was involved in the largest training program for firefighters in the Yukon.

JIBC’s Fire and Safety Division (FSD) is accredited to 42 levels of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) and the Pro Board Fire Service Professional Qualifications System (Pro Board). JIBC is also the only post-secondary institution in Canada that has bridged professional training and certification into an academic pathway leading to the Bachelor of Public Safety Administration.

In March, JIBC’s firefighter training programs also became recognized for meeting the occupational training and learning requirements for Canadian Armed Forces firefighting personnel. And in August, FSD launched its new Fire Fighting Technologies Certificate.

When he first arrived at Alert, Charles had to get accustomed to the 24-hour daylight. But when he returns in early October, he will have to eventually contend with 24 hours of darkness.

“When I return, it’ll probably be dark for about 16 hours a day, and the last I’ll see of the sun will be in mid-October after a week of twilight. It’s interesting to go from one extreme to another and it certainly does something to your internal clock,” said Charles. “It takes about a week or two to get used to it, but overall, it’s been very rewarding. We’re all there to do our job and we have a good time doing it.”


Story by Richard Chu

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