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These firefighters are all champions

Team Nunavut was among eight entrants in the 30th annual National Aboriginal Firefighter Competition held in Eskasoni, N.S., on Aug. 17.

And Team Nunavut was among eight winners at the event.

The members of Team Nunavut, who competed at the National Aboriginal Firefighter Competition held in Eskasoni, N.S., on Aug. 17 were Brittany Aggark of Rankin Inlet, Bryan Ukuqtunnuaq of Taloyoak, Jollie Enoogoo of Pond Inlet, Jonathan Ningark of Kugaaruk, Robert Kuniliusee of Qikiqtarjuaq, Vincent Inukpak of Baker Lake, and Silasie Nauyuq of Pangnirtung. photo courtesy of the Government of Nunavut

Organizers decided to award each team medals inscribed, “We are all champions.”

Jonathan Ningark, a 10-year veteran of the Kugaaruk volunteer fire department, said it wasn't the outcome he was expecting.

“It was a little different. I've got nothing to complain about but it caught me off guard,” he said. “We did our best.”

The competing firefighters did battle in several events. They donned their gear as quickly as possible, rolled hoses, raced with buckets full of water, and knocked down targets with hoses blasting, among other challenges.

Coming from a number of communities, the Nunavut participants only had three days to work together in Iqaluit prior to competing in Nova Scotia.

“We tried to point out our flaws and help improve each other,” Ningark said of the preparation. “We help each other.”

But not all things were equal. The self-contained breathing apparatuses that the Nunavut firefighters trained with in Iqaluit were not the same as the ones used in Nova Scotia, making it tricky to put them on.

“That caught us off guard,” Ningark admitted.

It was Ningark's second competition, having been part of the event in Fort McKay, Alta., two years ago. He didn't get involved last year due to suffering a collapsed lung. He said he felt 100 per cent ready to go last week, although the heat in Nova Scotia – it was in the mid-20s – while wearing fire gear made it sweltering.

“There was a guy who jumped in the 45-gallon barrel (of water),” Ningark said. “That's how hot it was for him.”