Five recruits join SPFR Work Experience Program

The five WEP participants will get hands on experience during their six month program. Photo Supplied.

Five recruits from across the country, and the world, have joined Sun Peaks Fire Rescue (SPFR) in their Work Experience Program which runs from May to October and gives participants hands on experience, training and community involvement.

Chris Mark, from Leicester, England, travelled the world before landing in Sun Peaks
in 2016.

He left the United Kingdom at the age of 21, taught English as second language in Korea, travelled, and completed a long-term bike ride before pursuing a career as a first responder.

“I wanted to be a firefighter since I was a kid. I like that it pushes you to learn and help people… There are not too many jobs that rewarding.”

He worked a season in Golden, B.C. as a ski patroller before being hired at Sun Peaks. He shadowed before being recruited to SPFR in January 2017 and being selected for WEP
this year.

He has his Occupational First Aid 3 and Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) license and is set to begin work with the BC Ambulance Service but his dream is still working as a firefighter in B.C. He founded the Sun Peaks Mountain Rescue Society last year to fundraise for equipment for local first responders to train with.

“I’m very grateful to get a chance to be part of the WEP program and to call it (Sun Peaks) home for another summer.”

Rylan Shaw, a Toronto native, came specifically for the WEP program.

At home he worked as a medical responder at events while volunteering for organizations like Habitat for Humanity.

Despite going to school for engineering, he was inspired to become a firefighter after he was struck by a vehicle and wowed by the firefighters who attended.

He has completed many courses including EMR, sign language for emergency responders, confined spaces, rope rescue, mental health first aid and his favourite, vehicle extrication.

During the WEP, Shaw would like to get more hands on medical experience before working
in Ontario.

“It makes me feel good inside, giving back,” he said.

Jamie Sharp, another Torontorian, is happy to return to Sun Peaks. He spent time here as a ski racer and was in and out of B.C. for many years.

Sharp found himself extremely sick when he was younger and with the help of a ski coach came up with goals. One was to go in a burning building.

He said the second he did it with the help of his local firehall, he was hooked.

He left behind an education in history and criminology to become a firefighter, attending firefighting school in Texas and training as a paramedic through the Justice Institute of B.C. (JIBC) in Victoria.

Since then he has worked as an industrial firefighter and Hazmat technician but said he is excited to return to B.C. for the WEP.

He said he appreciates the hands on approach and getting involved in the community.

“I like the comraderie, the integrity, the brothership, that it’s team oriented,” he said. “You can achieve more as a group.”

Denis Karras had a long journey before arriving in Sun Peaks. He was born in the Ukraine before moving to Canada at six years old and growing up in Vancouver. He was drawn to the Interior, spending five years in Kelowna, studying at the University of B.C.’s Okanagan campus.

After his studies in microbiology he worked as a treeplanter before deciding to switch directions to emergency first response.

Karras said he appreciates it’s a more social career than science and has more
humanitarian aspects.

He has worked as a Hazmat technician, been involved in many fundraisers and volunteered for causes like hospitals, UNICEF, palliative care, working with disabled children and medical work for St.John Ambulance.

Karras said he is looking forward to practical experience and giving back to Sun Peaks any way he can before moving onto being a career firefighter, hopefully in the Lower Mainland.

Matthew McLaughlin is a Vancouver boy who grew up in Toronto. He attended Capilano University and Simon Fraser University to study history before attending JIBC and the B.C. Institute of Technology for fire protection, inspection and testing.

McLaughlin said he wanted to switch after university because he realized he loved teamwork and social interaction.

“I realized that sitting in a class or office was not what I wanted,” he said. “I wanted to be active in the community and provide a service for others.”

He has completed many courses but his favourite area is rope rescue.

“For me it’s being the person that others can depend on. You can be the person that makes
a difference.”

After using the WEP to become more familiar with equipment and tools and gain experience on calls he would like to return to his home of North Vancouver as a firefighter.

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