The Fond du Lac Dene Nation Fire Department is back in familiar territory.
For the second time in three years, the six-member team took home top spot in the annual Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada’s National Firefighter Competition in Dauphin, Man.
This is the 11th time a Saskatchewan firefighting team has won the competition, and the sixth time for Fond du Lac Dene Nation. However, what made this victory so special was the difficult circumstances surrounding it.
“It has been a tough few years dealing with the first death of one of our brothers, the late D.J. Mercredi, and also another brother, Frank Jr. McDonald, who we lost before nationals,” fire captain Ronnie Augier said in a media release. “We will always honour and respect their families, and every call we get we are hoping they are watching over us from up above as we serve and protect our families and community.”
Fond du Lac Chief Louis Mercredi echoed those sentiments, and called for more resources to help those struggling with mental health issues.
“The team’s achievement coincides with the loss of another one of the team members for the second time in three years, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families,” he said in a media release. “We are struggling with the PTSD in our community and we are in need of mental health counselors. We need full-time staff who can reside in our community.”
Neither Augier or Mercredi were available for interviews.
Augier and his firefighting team of Justin Mercredi, Lonnie Augier, Derek Cook, Garrie Mercredi and Richard McDonald finished with 390 points over seven different competitions. That put them 70 points ahead of the defending champions from Cross Lake First Nation, Man., who finished second. Events included everything from a two-and-a-half inch Hose Drag and Drain, to a Breathing Apparatus and Bucket Walk.
“We try to encourage our firefighters and our Canadian Rangers to be well trained for unexpected things, like the plane crash that took place in December,” Chief Louis Mercredi said. “They were well trained, but are still in need of proper equipment for unexpected emergencies. It makes me proud as a leader of what they have accomplished.”
With the victory came congratulations from across Northern Saskatchewan, including from Prince Albert Grand Council Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte.
“We have always been proud of our First Nations firefighters and we are thrilled that one of our northern teams has been recognized nationally as being among the best of the best,” Hardlotte said in a media release. “Thank you for not only representing this province, but Saskatchewan’s north.”
- Fond du Lac (Sask.) – 390 points
- Cross Lake (Man.) – 320 points, 70 penalties
- Eskasoni (Atlantic) – 320 points, 80 penalties
- Six Nations (Ont.) – 280 points
- Nunavut – 230 points
- Listuguj and Gesgapegaig (Que.) – 210 points, 70 penalties
- Maskwacis (Alta.) – 210 points, 95 penalties
- Penelakut (B.C.) – 120 points