Think firefighter training is easy? Shaun Aquiline discovers how gruelling it REALLY is…

By Shaun Aquiline

Volunteer Firefighter James MacDonald invited me to join him and fellow Volunteer James Bacon to experience a very small portion of the training they endure. I finished that exercise feeling winded, with my emotions running high but also a great deal wiser.

Five members from the Revelstoke Fire Rescue Service will be climbing the wall at the 490-foot (that’s 48 storeys) Sheraton Wall Centre on February 21 in the Lower Mainland to raise funds for the BC Lung Association. As some fun publicity they invited me to try their training for this annual event. However, what was meant tyo be a light-hearted, fun experience turned out to be a heavy, deep-rooted educational and emotional experience for me.

I managed 15 flights up and down the tower at the Fire Hall at Fourth Street and Campbell Avenue before tunnel vision restricted my view of the stairwell. My heart was ready to leap out of my chest and claustrophobia began to set in. When I reached the top, it was in the midst of a dizzying whirlwind of panic. Hopefully they granted me a little slack due my lack of extreme sporting. But what went through my mind as I watched James Bacon rip away with the 85 pounds of gear that staggered me was not that I was out of breath, or that I was going to throw up over the railing, but that I couldn’t believe firefighters do this kind of thing inside burning buildings. I was dizzy and in a state of near-panicked breathlessness. As I leaned over a railing to barf, I could see our city below but it was like looking at it through a foggy haze. I couldn’t collect my thoughts or my emotions.

What was meant to be a light-hearted awareness campaign to support our local firefighters’ Sheraton Wall Centre efforts and fundraiser, turned into an emotionally charged and physically draining experience.

There was a point when I was watching James MacDonald that I felt tears coming on. I’m just a simple radio host and I could not imagine enduring the physical stress he and all the other men and women of the Fire Rescue Service endure while fighting fires.

I will say this: if there is any way to shave off 30 pounds of gear from any firefighter while they are in the midst of a dangerous chaotic mess, I don’t mind a few extra dollars on my tax bill to help.

If you’d like to support our firefighters’ efforts to raise money you can make a contribution to them at Cooper’s Foods on Saturday, February 13, when they’ll be manning a table.

Shaun Aquiline is the host of CKCR EZ Rock Radio’s local Revelstoke programming and a regular contributor to The Revelstoke Current.