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Pride, morale high as Rankin Inlet chief chips away at fire department wish list

Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series that shows how far the Rankin Inlet fire department has come in the past five years as it readies to officially open its new training centre in Rankin.

Members of the Rankin Inlet Fire Department are, front row, from left, Lieut. Meagan Netser, Chloe Norris, Nicole Ymana, Brittany Aggark and Katauyak Everard, and, middle row, from left, Aqpa Kasaluak, Cates Bayabay, Jayda Pilakapsi, Lieut. Pam Pilakapsi and Jovette Kurok, and, back row, from left, Capt. George Aksadjuak, Lieut. Scott Morey, Chief Mark Wyatt, Kelly Kabvitok, David Shaffrey and Obadiah Sanguin on Sept. 24, 2020. Missing from photo are Nathaniel Hutchinson, Troy Innukshuk, Mark Kappi, David Lowe, Scott Lowe and Daniel Anautak.
Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

There have been a lot of changes within the Rankin Inlet Fire Department since Fire Chief Mark Wyatt took the reins about five years ago; some accomplished with positive attitudes and lots of elbow grease from a talented staff, some with hefty price tags attached, and some are still a work in progress that no one could imagine ever being in Rankin.

Fortunately for the community and beyond, Wyatt has a good imagination.

And, he knows the value of a well-equipped and smartly-dressed force and what that does for morale and effectiveness.

Wyatt said in a fire department like the one in Rankin, you tend to have highs and lows all the time.

He said you have periods of time when you get good people in the department, and then sometimes you get people who aren’t so good and that can mess things up a little bit.

I have to say that, right now, this fire department is stronger than it’s ever been before,” said Wyatt.

Everyone is paddling in the same direction and we brought a lot more women into the department, which has made a heck of a difference in terms of being better and more balanced.

The women we have in the department are every bit as capable as any male firefighter I have in here. And, we now have a 50-50 balance in terms of men and women.

In fact, I had all women recruits this year and they’ve all either passed, or are going to pass, their Firefighter Level 2 in their first year. It’s an exciting place to be right now.”

Wyatt’s current contract with the hamlet has him heading the Rankin department until at least the end of 2021.

He said one of the things still at the top of his wish list for the Rankin department is a ladder or aerial truck.

If there’s a fire in the kitchen and people have to get out of the apartment, for example, on the third storey of a structure that’s not a sprinkler building, it’s just going to spread because of the lack of that sprinkler system in there to help put it out.

So, all of a sudden, I’ve got a building with a fire on the third floor at the back, where I have no access up to the windows apart from a regular 35-foot ladder.

That means I don’t have the ability to fight that fire the way it should be fought. And, even more importantly, if there are people trapped who can’t get out, I don’t have the ability to rescue them from any of these apartment buildings, so a ladder truck is a primary piece of apparatus that we need in this community.

The ticket price on that is $650,000 to $1 million, but it’s a basic piece of firefighting equipment in any town this size that has multi-storey buildings and I’m determined it’s something we are going to have here in Rankin Inlet.”

Thankfully, the department has managed to bolster morale in other areas with much smaller price tags.

Wyatt said the firefighters all have station uniforms and some of them have dress uniforms.

He said Remembrance Day is a prime example of when all the firefighters show up in their uniforms.

They look proud because they’re an organized department.

In addition to that, they get summer jackets and we’ve had parkas made locally for all the firefighters, which we need more of this year for our new members.

They also get baseball caps, T-shirts and hoodies so that even when they’re at a community event, or whatever, we can recognize that they’re part of the fire department.

And every time I’m able to open a box of new stuff, people are happy.”