Women are important part of firefighting team

“I know I work hard and have what it takes,” says Megan Cottingham

Holly Colwell was 17 when her grandfather almost started a major wildfire while out hunting.

Colwell, now 28, said the experience was a “real eyeopener” to how fast fire can spread.

“It really got away and took off,” she recalls. “It was a mad panic to put it out, but it was just it was crazy how much power fire has. In the same sense, once you put it out, it’s a real accomplishment.”

Colwell has always had an interest in becoming a firefighter.

“I’ve had some tastes in the past with some fires and ot knowing how to deal with it made me want to understand more,” she said.

Colwell has been part of the Revelstoke Fire Services volunteer team for the past year.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “It’s been a really good experience.”

Colwell enjoys the sense of accomplishment that comes from putting a fire out and the comraderie between members.

“You adopt an awesome family,” she said. “All our members are really close.”

Colwell is one of three women currently with fire services. Oshi Hampson, 26, began her training at the same time as Colwell, while Megan Cottingham, even though she’s the youngest at 18, has been involved the longest.

Cottingham attended at camp a few summers ago in Vancouver that was tun entirely by firefighters.

Currently a member of the Monashee wildfire unit crew, Cottingham is eyeing firefighting as a career.

“I love that it’s an active job,” she said. “Everyday is different. Everyday is a challenge.”

Cottingham recalls one of her first calls. She was the third person on the scene of a vehicle fire and grabbed a pack and a nozzle.

“I was still pretty new,” she said. But with all her training, she knew what to do.

As each additional person arrived on the scene, they moved into their job seamlessly.

“Everybody got into it really smoothly,” she said.

As a woman in a field predominantly male, Cottingham said she sometimes feels out of place.

But, with her background, and the progressive attitude of the department, Cottingham remains confident.

“I know I work hard and have what it takes,” she said.

Local business-owner Hampson was at the summer farmer’s market where the department was recruiting new members.

“I just grabbed an application and kind of looked into it a little bit,” she said. “I just decided to go for it.”

She hasn’t looked back since.

She owns the six-month-old Parhelia Massage and balances firefighting and running her own business seamlessly.

“It ended up being a really good idea for me and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it ever since I started,” she said.

Hampson enjoys the teamwork involved in firefighting.

“You immediately get 30 or 40 best friends,” she said. “It’s all fun and games but when it comes fown to all seriousness when you’re on a call, you really have to rely on that person and trust them.”

 

Megan Cottingham and Holly Colwell. ~ Contributed image

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