Kelsey Gorgichuk may be the only female firefighter in Salmon Arm but she feels right at home.
Gorgichuk has been volunteering with the Salmon Arm Fire Department’s Hall 2 near the Shuswap Middle School since July of this year. She splits her time between the hall and working as an apprentice machinist at Custom Cut Machine Inc. in Salmon Arm’s industrial park. She joined the fire department as she saw it as a way to give back to the community.
Historically, female firefighters have endured a long list of abuses but Gorgichuk said she has experienced nothing of the sort.
“There’s no animosity because I’m a girl or the only girl,” she said. “It’s awesome, I love it. I’ve only been in it for two months and I feel like I’m part of the little community within the department already, it’s very welcoming.”
Even when Gorgichuk was thinking of joining the department, she was far from intimidated by the previously all-male crew.
“I wasn’t worried about it really at all,” she said. “I come from a trades background and that’s just kind of what my world is, working around men.”
Gorgichuk, who starts her technical training in January, recommends joining the department to anybody and said the group is supportive and welcoming.
While the profession is one that historically has been male-dominated, Sean Coubrough, Fire Services Coordinator for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, says halls are working hard to reverse this.
“We have many, many women in our fire departments for the 13 that I oversee,” Coubrough said. “Tappen is almost 50/50 I think. We have a lot of women in our ranks.”
Brad Shirley, Fire Chief for the Salmon Arm Fire Department, said that Gorgichuk is not the first female to join and that she seems excited about going through the program. When comparing the number of female firefighters in Tappen to Salmon Arm, Shirley is unsure as to why the disparity exists.
“I don’t know why we only have one, it’s hard to know. Certainly they are as welcome as the males are,” Shirley said. “They are as much of a team player and part of the team as much as all our members are.”
Shirley recalls the department has had at least three female firefighters in the past – they are not with the department anymore as most moved away.