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Competition fires up firefighters

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Published Monday, September 5, 2011

A Pond Inlet firefighter made his community, and the territory, proud when he joined Team Nunavut at the national Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada competition in Winnipeg Aug. 20.

And Jollie Enoogoo's efforts both at home and away are paying off in a growing interest in volunteer firefighting in his community.

"I had to show what they can do," Enoogoo said of his efforts to inspire others.

A long-time volunteer firefighter, he has spent most of his adult life - 10 of the last 11 years - volunteering in Pond Inlet. The only time he has hasn't volunteered was when he was working on a ship three years ago. He returned to grow the town's volunteer fire squad from a crew of only five members to a healthy team of 14; 10 others are on the squad's waiting list.

"It was stressful (having only five), but I had to speak to more people and ask for help to get more firefighters," Enoogoo said, noting volunteers want something they can enjoy.

"I get them competing with each other to make it more fun."

His drive to compete arose when he noticed information about the national aboriginal firefighters competition. He felt he wasn't ready, so took firefighter training in Rankin Inlet to improve a broad range of skills, including advanced firefighting and investigation.

"After all these things, I said to myself, 'I can go for it now,'" Enoogoo said. "I wanted to do it for my people and my hometown and for Nunavut."

He had to prove himself at Team Nunavut tryouts in Rankin Inlet, where he was told six applicants would represent the territory. He earned a spot, and headed to Winnipeg. At the national competition, his team competed in timed trials rolling hoses, shooting targets with the hose, carrying breathing apparatus, and filling buckets.

While all of these things involved training, the hardest aspect was the change in temperature, where daily highs were in the 20s.

"We had to start getting used to it before the competition because coming from the North, it's going to be very hot for us."

The team faced the heat, and some serious competition, placing eighth out of eight teams attending. Still, landing in Pond Inlet, he was the pride of his colleagues.

"When I came back, all the firefighters were at the airport to welcome me, to show that they were happy for me."

Jasper Singoorie, the hamlet's bylaw officer and a volunteer firefighter, has spent the last three years with the squad. He's proud to be part of Enoogoo's team.

"They're a pretty good team," Singoorie said. "Pretty fast with what they do."

You can often find Singoorie and Enoogoo at the fire hall, where they practise two or three times each week. It's work that Enoogoo hopes others will be motivated to do.

"The people are helping us," he said of his reasons for staying involved. "Why don't we help them, too?"

But for Singoorie, there's a more personal reason to get involved.

"My little son is three years old, and likes to see the fire truck on the road, even if it's just on practice," he said. "I like to keep him happy."

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