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Nunavut firefighters head to nationals

Firefighter Andrew Jr. Iqalukjuak of Clyde River was excited to be picked for a second time to compete at the National Aboriginal Firefighter Competition scheduled to take place Aug. 12.

Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo Seen competing in Iqaluit Aug. 4, from left, firefighters Steven Iqalukjuak of Clyde River, Mark Tigumiar and Sandy Natseck of Naujaat, team coach Atsaina Eeyeevadlok of Kimmirut, team captain Justin Morgan of Hall Beach, Andrew Jr. Iqalukjuak of Clyde River and Glen Sutherland of Kugaaruk represented Nunavut at the National Aboriginal Firefighter Competition Saturday, Aug. 12 at the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick.

He said he wasn't nervous.

Iqalukjuak travelled with his six teammates: Steven Iqalukjuak of Clyde River, Mark Tigumiar and Sandy Natseck of Naujaat, team coach Atsaina Eeyeevadlok of Kimmirut, team captain Justin Morgan of Hall Beach and Glen Sutherland of Kugaaruk.

The seven were the top competitors among 17 from across the territory at several days of training and competition in Iqaluit that ended Aug. 6.

"The firefighter competition is a skills-based competition that provides an opportunity for firefighters to showcase their skills against their peers from across the country," said fire specialist training officer Frederick Morrison, who travelled with the seven men.

"The competition is based on firefighting tasks commonly performed in emergency situations, but are practiced in competition without an actual fire. Tasks like hose rolling, replace a burst length, fast coupling drill, SCBA relay, and high-flow knockdown are included."

The team was expected to land in Fredericton Aug. 9 and join other competitors from across Canada at Tobique First Nation.

"It's a lot of fun. You get to learn new stuff and gain more skills," Andrew Jr. Iqalukjuak told Nunavut News/North the day the team was picked in Iqaluit.

The days of competing and training in Iqaluit covered all the bases in terms of competing against teams from Alberta (Maskwacis), British Columbia (Saik'uz), Manitoba (Cross Lake), Ontario (Chippewas of the Thames), Saskatchewan (Fond du Lac) and Quebec (Manawan).

"One of them is high-flow knockdown, where you get breathing apparatus on, and when you finish you take the nozzle, drag it 150 feet, and take the target down at 200 feet," Iqalukjuak explained.

This national competition will be the first for Mark Tigumiar. The Naujaat firefighter has competed at the territorials three times in an effort to make it on the team for nationals.

"I'm kind of nervous but excited," he said.

This is the 11th year of competition for Team Nunavut. The team, made up of different firefighters each year, has placed from third to eighth over the years.

"Given that Nunavut’s team has won the Most Sportsmanlike Team Award nine times out of the 11 years they have competed, their obvious strength is teamwork, an essential skill for firefighters," said Morrison.

Iqalukjuak and Tigumiar have each been firefighters for about four years, and have both battled blazes in their communities.

"I went to a house fire, a car fire, and another house fire," said Iqalukjuak, adding they were able to save one of the houses.

Tigumiar says in his community he's mostly fought shack fires.

Both trace their wish to fight fires to childhood.

"Since I was a little kid I've wanted to become a firefighter. When I grew up I kept asking if I could join them. When there was a general level (course), I finally got accepted," said Iqalukjuak.

Tigumiar said, "Same as him. I wanted to be a firefighter when I grew up."

Morrison said the national event helps firefighters hone skills that they can use for the benefit of their communities.

"The activities required to safely fight fires becomes second nature. The event is grueling and tests the physical fitness and endurance of firefighters, and also allows them an opportunity to share their experience with others who dedicate their time to community protection."

Results of the competition were not available by press time.