The Hay River Fire Department has once again done the community proud.

As reported in this issue of The Hub, the department and one of its members – Capt. Terence Fischer – have been named recipients of the GNWT’s Fire Service Merit Awards for this year.

Congratulations are certainly in order, and we wholeheartedly offer them.

The awards once again show that the community has a department and firefighters that are recognized and respected all over the NWT.

And Capt. Fischer was honoured for his example of what a community firefighter should be.

The department has been so good for so long – and a previous recipient of a Fire Service Merit Award – that it really doesn’t come as a surprise that it and an individual member have been recognized with the honour, which is presented annually by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs.

However, there is one thing about the department that has surprised us.

That surprise has not been caused by any award, but by two pages in last week’s Hub in recognition of Fire Prevention Week, which was held from Oct. 8 to Oct. 14. As is the tradition for many community fire departments, the pages featured the photos of all the members.

We were struck by one thing about the firefighters. Out of 29 members of the department, 10 of them appear to be women. (We say appear to be women because it is not always easy to definitely determine gender when a person is wearing a fire hat, and certain names sometimes can be used by both men and women.)

But we’ll go with 10.

That means that a little more than one-third of the Hay River Fire Department’s members are women.

Perhaps that is nothing new for the Hay River Fire Department. It might be that we just never noticed before.

And some people might say that no one should even notice such a thing in this day and age. To borrow a famous phrase from a little while back, the number of women on a fire department should not be surprising or noteworthy because it’s 2017.

Well, we noticed. Sorry.

Some younger folk might not know that a generation or two ago a female firefighter was rare. At one time, being a firefighter was basically strictly for males.

And even today in many places in Canada, it is still unusual to see a woman firefighter.

For example, Thunder Bay Fire Rescue in Ontario hired two women for the first time ever last year.

And in 2015, the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services had just 21 women among its 741 firefighters.

We have no way of knowing without launching an extensive research project, but we would bet that the percentage of women on the Hay River Fire Department is probably one of the highest percentages in Canada.

So while we recognize and congratulate the department and Capt. Fischer, we should also take a moment to recognize that the number of women serving as firefighters in our community also makes the department special.

It’s something that should make everyone in the community proud.


Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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