Summer in the North
November 29, 2021
Meet Assiniboine Alum Jerra Green (Police Studies class of 2019).
Green had the ‘adventure of a lifetime’ this summer when she was accepted into the Manitoba Wildland Fire Fighter program. Taking a leave from her job at the Rivers Police Service, she headed to Northern Manitoba to fight wildfires from May to September.
“I had lived in South Africa on and off and had done some wildland firefighting over there. So that’s sort of what piqued my interest,” said Green.
In being able to fulfill this dream, she was grateful to her employer for allowing it to happen.
“The service, the members of the service, the police board and the town have been nothing but supportive of me. In every request that I have, like my leave of absence, they’re so supportive.”
Green, who was already used to the physical fitness required to run the PO PAT (Police Officers’ Physical Ability Test), an obstacle course designed to mimic the demands an officer might encounter on the job, made sure to ramp up her typical fitness routine before she took flight to the north.
“The wildlife firefighting obstacle course is a lot longer than what I’m used to training for, so I did some longer runs and runs with a weighted vest on, because on the job you’re carrying 55-pound hose packs on your back while walking up and down hills and rocks,” she said.
The program began with in-field training in May with learning experiences like practice scenarios.
“And as much training and scenario work as you do, it’s so different when you’re out there on the line, because fire and weather and everything is just so unpredictable. Things can change in an instant. The training is a fantastic baseline, kind of guideline on what you need to look for and the situations that may happen, but literally anything can happen.”
A highlight for Green was seeing Manitoba in a new light.
“You’re flying around in helicopters and going to these places that people haven’t been in years, if at all,” she said. “I’ve never lived or worked or traveled to northern Manitoba. To be able to experience that and experience the culture in the North was definitely a highlight.”
The experience, though, was not without its physical and mental challenges.
“It’s hard work. Holy man, it was so physically demanding. You’re working up to 18 hours a day out on the fireline, in the heat, in your gear. So, it can be extremely taxing on the body, but you just have to stay hydrated and eat and kind of do everything that you can to keep pushing through,” said Green.
“Being away from home was hard, too. That was a challenge, to be away for an extended period of time, and not know if you’re going to be able to get your next days off to come home.”
During one stint, for example, Green spent 19 straight days in the bush.
“The unknown was also a challenge until I got the hang of everything,” she said. “It was such a busy season that we were going from A to B to C in just a couple of days. That was a challenge, but it was a great challenge.”
“The overall experience was amazing. The people that you meet and the places you get to see are just unbelievable,” she added.
“It was an experience of a lifetime and I’d highly recommend to anyone.”