THUNDER BAY – Representatives from Confederation College were bursting with pride Saturday, as they watched three recent graduates of the College’s Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training program be honoured for heroism by the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM). This prestigious recognition was given to Taya Stamler, Riley Tucker and Devon Wanakamik, for their help in saving the lives of three individuals in a house fire on February 1, 2019, in Thunder Bay while studying in the PSFF program.
“These three individuals are exemplary of the effectiveness and efficiency of the Pre-Service Firefighting program in Ontario,” said Guy DeGagne, Principal of the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management. “This heroic event demonstrated the importance of training and above all, it demonstrated each student’s professionalism, dedication, and passion for the firefighting profession. I congratulate and thank Devon, Riley, and Taya for embracing a career to the service of the people of Ontario in the reduction and elimination of dramatic and destructive fire and public safety events.”
Stamler, Tucker, and Wanakamik were on their way to school last February when they saw an attached garage on fire. It was early morning and they worried that the occupants of the home may be asleep and therefore unaware of the fire. They pounded on the door and quickly led the three previously unaware people inside the home to safety until fire teams arrived. No smoke alarms had been ringing meaning the efforts of these students led directly to lives being saved.
“It is students, now graduates, like Devon, Riley, and Taya who reinforce the value of education and remind all of us at Confederation College why we do what we do,” said Kathleen Lynch, President of Confederation College. “Our greatest reward is to see our learners succeed. People are alive and well thanks to these students and their training – I can’t think of a better example of success. On behalf of our entire College community, I congratulate each of them on their heroism and thank them for being a source of inspiration for all of our learners and especially those of our Pre-Service Firefighter program.”
“I am truly honoured to be receiving this significant recognition along with my classmates. Excellent training from Confederation College and my experience as a member of the volunteer fire department in Rainy River taught me to act quickly and respond efficiently. I used these skills when supporting the residential fire rescue back in February. I am grateful to have played a role in helping people in their moment of need,” says Taya Stamler, 2019 Graduate, Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training program.
At the recognition event, PSFF Program Manager Shane Ferguson acknowledged just how these students knew what to do. “In our program, we stress many disciplines such as being observant on how to read smoke, staying calm and focused on the situation at hand, and especially working as a team. I am so proud of Devon, Riley, and Taya for executing all of these disciplines and more. I also applaud their bravery and quick thinking. Their actions resulted in three lives being saved.”
In the spirit of the continued education and training of Pre-Service Firefighter students at Confederation College and the broader community, the current cohort was on hand at the recognition event to celebrate Fire Safety and Prevention Week. Offering interactive activities for members of the public to learn about fire safety, the event was strategically held at Fort William First Nation (FWFN) in a joint effort by the College and the First Nation to bring particular attention to the importance of having and regularly testing smoke alarms, a top-of-mind issue for FWFN.
The location also served to highlight and celebrate the growing presence of Indigenous students in the Pre-Service Firefighter program, an achievement facilitated in part by the man and Confederation alumnus behind the ongoing establishment of a volunteer fire service on the First Nation. The College is proud to have the highest enrolment of self-identified Indigenous learners enrolled in a firefighting program across Ontario Colleges and is the only program in the province to have supported self-identified Indigenous students to graduate.
To learn more about the Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training program and to apply, visit www.confederationcollege.ca/preservicefirefighter.
“I’m very thankful for such amazing recognition for what I consider a simple act. We were able to help because we were trained to know how to deal with a fire situation through our program. By learning the signs of a fire, myself and my classmates were able to catch it in the early stages. It is because of the PSFF program that the house is still standing and the people inside are safe,” stated Riley Tucker, 2019 Graduate, Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training program.
“I am honoured to be receiving this recognition from the OFMEM and to have succeeded in the PSFF program last year. My former colleagues and I were happy to be able to do the right thing at the right time to prevent the homeowner, his son, and grandson from succumbing to smoke inhalation. When we approached the structure to wake the residents there was no alarm going off – we were their smoke alarm. Having knowledge on the dangers of fire and smoke from our program definitely gave us a clear mind on the scene. I am glad nobody was hurt that day. Contributing to saving lives is a memory I will never forget,” added Devon Wanakamik, 2019 Graduate, Pre-Service Firefighter Education, and Training program.