Team Alberta turned up the heat at the National Aboriginal Firefighting Championships in Hobbema on Aug. 22. After quickly and skillfully completing the five physically demanding tasks the members of the Maskwacis Fire Department claimed their victory.
Team Alberta consisted of five members of the Maskwacis Fire Department, Morris Nepoose, Justin Nepoose, Francis Lynch, Kevin Johnson and Barry Johnson.
Seven provinces competed for their chance to win the title by executing five challenging drills (evolutions) that simulated real-life firefighting scenarios. The evolutions were randomly chosen from a list of 16 tasks. The winner was determined by the fastest time during the evolutions with the least penalty minutes.
After battling the hot sun and finishing the strenuous all-day contest Alberta’s win was followed by Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Quebec, British Columbia and Nunavut.
Maskwacis Fire Chief Danny Buffalo was pleased with the results of the competition and enjoyed hosting the event.
“It’s been awhile since Alberta has hosted this competition,” said Buffalo. “It’s very positive, and for the firefighters here, I think it will keep giving them incentive and help maintain the existing morale.”
The last time the Maskwacis hosted the championships was in 1994.
“We try and strive to make it to number 1 and to make it to this level is a great honour,” said Johnson. “We are grateful to the community, chief and council for their words of wisdom, family for all they sacrifice and volunteers, it would be difficult without them.”
The Maskwacis Fire Department members worked hard to get to the nationals. During the Provincial Native Firefighter competitions on July 19 the Maskwacis defeated Fort McKay and Saddlelake and opened the door for their chance at winning the nationals..
Morris Nepoose, one of the members of Team Alberta, was glad that the nationals were held in Hobbema and feels that it sheds a good light on the community, counteracting the recent negative attention.
“It’s really important that people realize there are positive things going on in the community. The nationals reinforce the positiveness with the rest of the country,” said Nepoose. “People from other provinces have come, competed and experienced all the hospitality here and now they can give a good and accurate report when they go home and tell everyone that it’s really not that bad.”
Fire Chief of the Ponoka Fire Department, Ted Dillon, has been judging the provincial and national competitions since 1993. Dillon There are five different evolutions for each team which made for 35 evolutions for Dillon to judge. Dillon says that although the sun was hot that the competition was fun and the camaraderie was great.
“They are all excellent firefighters, they did a great job,” said Dillon. “It was a long day but I’m glad they invited me out. There was good conversation and fellowship, Ponoka, Wetaskiwin and the Muskwacis firefighters get along really well.”
The awards banquet and presentations for the teams were hosted at the River Cree Casino at the end of the day.