STONEY NAKODA – A new symbol of hope drove on to Stoney Nakoda Nation last week, as a new fire truck was blessed and added to the Nation’s fleet, along with the announcement of training for volunteers, nearly two months after the departure of the former fire chief.
“I’m super excited,” Colten Wildman, Nakoda Emergency Services firefighter said on May 10, as the new truck was being put to use in training exercises with Public Works personnel.
“I think it’s a long time coming and the Nation is equally as happy and excited, so that is good ... this is just one big step to a long-term solution.”
The addition of the new truck comes eight weeks after the announcement of the departure of the now former Fire Chief Jeff Beddome, which left the estimated 4,000 to 5,000 population three-band Nation - Wesley, Bearspaw and Chiniki - with only one firefighter.
In the interim, Stoney Nakoda Fire relied on help from neighbouring communities Cochrane and Exshaw – both more than 30 kilometres from the Morley town site, while still responding to fire calls with additional help from Public Works employees.
“Exshaw and Cochrane have been nothing but supportive to us – the deputy Cochrane Fire Chief Shawn Polley has been reaching out and coming to meetings and trying to gain a bit of partnership to keep it positive and just let us know that [our neighbours] are here for us,” Wildman said.
After the fire chief departure, it left residents asking for an in-house, long-term solution, something former Nation Public Works manager Dean Plant hopes to see with the new fire truck and additional full time and volunteer positions.
“[Administration] is in the process of hiring a couple more full time firefighters with the Nation and there is also support from Public Works,” Plant explained.
“[We] are supporting the Nation, the firefighters, whatever they need, we are here to help. We can pull guys that are trained so we don’t lose our support for delivering water to the Nation members but the fire department knows they have the support.”
Earlier this year, Indigenous Services Canada confirmed in an email that funding was committed to the purchase of a fire truck in February and ISC was “working closely with the Stoney Nakoda Nation to support the purchase.”
Officials found a Hutterite colony outside of Brandon, Man. that hand builds fire trucks and made the decision to purchase one with full function and a standing fire canon.
“As of right now I’d like to keep everything positive and simple but it’s a big step moving forward, Wildman said.
“We are trying to do the best we possibly can with what we’ve got and the support that we are getting from external sources has just been phenomenal as of lately and we hope to just keep gaining on that.”
During the unveiling, there were training exercises for Public Works employees who were also learning the “ins and outs” of the new truck.
“Some of our guys are already wild land fire trained and some are getting trained on the new truck and how the pump works ... We can help with fires and grass fires and make the Nation safe – the people are going to be looked after and that is the main thing,” Plant said.
The Nation’s firefighter said he was “excited” for the future.
“The Public Works guys are guys from the Nation who know the land, which is huge and they are willing to do whatever it takes to protect the Nation ... We are a service and we are doing the absolute best that we possibly can,” Wildman said.