Over the weekend, a fire truck was donated to the Ocean Man First Nation from the Kamsack Fire Department through an NGO, Fire Fighters Without Borders. It will be the first fire truck that the Ocean Man First Nation will have as part of their volunteer fire fighting team and will significantly improve the community’s ability to respond to emergencies.
The truck was donated in a presentation on October 17 with Kamsack Mayor Nancy Brunt, Ocean Man Chief Connie Big Eagle, Yorkton Tribal Council Chief Isabelle O’Soup, Yorkton Tribal Council Emergency Response Planning Co-ordinator Bonnie Austman and Kamsack Fire Chief Ken Thompson in attendance for the donation.
“We are proud to be able to work together with Fire Fighters Without Borders to make this donation to the Ocean Man First Nation,” said Brunt. “We are looking for ways to improve our relationship with our First Nations neighbours and this is a good step in the right direction.”
The cost of purchasing a new fire truck is outside of the Ocean Man First Nations’ ability at the moment but the need for a truck has been with the community for several decades.
“It would have been a long time before we could have gone to buy one so it means a lot to us,” said Ocean Man Chief Connie Big Eagle. “We became a reserve in the 1990s and we had several buildings built for our community including a fire hall but we haven’t had the money to purchase a truck. This will allow us to use the fire hall and it will save time when we need to respond to a fire in an emergency.”
The community has a group of volunteer fire fighters that will now be receiving training on how to use the truck and improve their services to their community. Bonnie Austman was thanked for her work in helping to organize and co-ordinate the donation and was gifted a star blanket along with Kamsack Mayor Nancy Brunt and Fire Chief Ken Thompson.
“I was looking for a place to put the truck and I contacted Firefighters Without Borders,” said Ken Thompson, Kamsack Fire Chief.
Fire Fighters Without Borders typically provides fire-fighting apparatus and equipment to third world countries that are needing the equipment. Because of COVID era changes, the organization is currently unable to ship overseas. The Toronto based NGO was enthusiastic about donating the Kamsack fire truck and worked with support from Saskatchewan First Nations Emergency Management.
“I thought it was a good idea to make the donation. I think the truck still has a lot of good years to it. For a small community, it’s a perfect starter apparatus and it’s a good thing it went to a small community,” said Thompson. ‘I know that not having the equipment, people take it for granted in cities like Yorkton. They know there’s a fire department and it will be there to help them but some rural communities, they don’t have that support so when something major happens, help can be hours away. It could result in a loss of property, or in the worst case, lives. It’s a good thing that it went there, it gives them a sense of security.”
The truck is an International and was purchased by the Kamsack Fire Department for the Town of Kamsack and RM of Cote in 1972. At the time, Kamsack had a refinery and it was a much needed piece of equipment to ensure the safety of the community. It was a state-of-the-art piece of equipment when it was purchased and the truck was used as a primary unit by the Kamsack Fire Department until 1992 when a Ford was purchased and became the primary unit. It was used as a secondary truck until 2019 when it was replaced and put into temporary retirement.
“I am happy that it found itself a good home and that it will be put to good use and hopefully they have a few good years out of it.”
Yorkton Tribal Council Chief Isabelle O’Soup says she is happy to see this donation being made.
“This is what reconciliation is supposed to do for us,” she said. “It makes me so happy to be able to see this donation being made and for the Ocean Man to be receiving this equipment. This is helping to improve our relationships.”
Fire Fighters without Borders works with organizations around the world but has been working closely with several First Nation Communities to ensure that their fire safety needs are met.