Truth is Gemma Hughes didn’t throw her name in the hat to be the 29th fire chief for a day. Her mom did.
“She didn’t even tell me,” said the eight-year-old Dallas elementary student.
That’s not to say that Gemma complained when she was selected as this year’s chief from a long list of applicants in grades 3 to 5.
And she admits it was exciting to get picked up from her school Wednesday morning and be handed a special fire chief’s helmet and jacket.
Although Gemma doesn’t have a brother and sister — “not even a single pet” — her friends were pretty jealous.
“Yep. They sure were,” she said once The Daily News caught up with her.
From Dallas, a crew of firefighters took Gemma to Station No. 2 in North Kamloops where she got to blast pylons with a fire hose and climb to the top of the department’s aerial platform truck.
“It was pretty bouncy,” she said of standing 30 metres in the air. “I could see all over. I could see my cousin’s house.”
But the real excitement kicked in at Kamloops Fire and Rescue’s training centre on McGill Road, where Gemma was in charge of putting out a burning car and got to extinguish a fire in the burn building.
Training officer Neil Campbell and chief training officer Steve Butchart supervised the fires and Gemma had a full firefighting crew with her.
Although a simulation, Gemma acted like a real chief. Life safety educator Sheldon Guertin said the goal was to give her the full firefighting experience.
“We show them what it’s like to be a firefighter in an emergency environment,” he said.
The fire chief for a day is also provided with safety tips to take back to friends, classmates and family, said Guertin. A fun and positive experience can make the tips more memorable, he said.
And Gemma said she had fun. She used Fire and Rescue’s thermal imager to watch flames spread in the burn building and put out a fire of wooden pallets with a hose and the help of firefighters.
“We’ve got your back, chief,” one of them told her.
Gemma’s class was treated to a pizza lunch before she enjoyed a tour of Station No. 1 in Sahali.