Vicky Trill writes: “I would like to nominate Jacob Aie as someone who goes above and beyond. Jacob is a volunteer firefighter in Ashcroft. This summer he was working full time at the Ashcroft HUB, where he did a variety of tasks, including entertaining kids and creating community media. I am not sure if there was a week that went by where Jacob didn’t have a fire call, and some weeks there were multiple calls. These volunteer fire calls meant that Jacob was often working through the night in high-intensity situations. Although Jacob often had very little sleep and came from often stressful situations, he still found a way to be at work with energy and a smile. He is a hero for all of these reasons, and he has only just turned 16. This type of dedication to protecting our community is a special quality!”
It runs in the family.
As soon as he turned 16 in June 2021, Jacob Aie joined the Ashcroft Fire Department as a junior firefighter, but he was already familiar with the department and fire hall: his father, brother, two uncles, and a cousin are all Ashcroft firefighters.
“I joined mostly because of my dad [Steve] and brother [Hayden],” he says. “Dad has been a firefighter for over 20 years, and Hayden is coming up on five years, so I knew way before I was 16 I wanted to do this. Being a kid in the fire hall I thought ‘This is what I want to do,’ something I can do to help my community.”
The role of a junior firefighter is mainly to provide support to others, he explains.
“If firefighters are coming off their air tanks after a structure fire I make sure they’re hydrated and their oxygen tanks are filled, make sure they’re looked after. If someone gives me an order, I do it.”
Despite his familiarity with the fire department, Aie says he didn’t expect anything like what happened this summer. “I don’t think anyone did. I was expecting some grass fires, not what we got.”
He had already been out on a small grass fire on the Ashcroft reserve in early June when the Tremont Creek wildfire broke out near Ashcroft in mid-July.
“I went up with the water tender on the first night of Tremont Creek and did structure protection as part of a team. I’d never done anything like that, and the fire wasn’t super close; I was just there helping out where they told me to help.”
It was the start of a busy time, with fire calls all through the night for days on end.
“I’d be up there from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., then get what sleep I could and go to work. There was one fire where I was there until 8 a.m. and at work at 10 a.m.”
Work was a summer job at the Ashcroft HUB, where Aie had applied in mid-May. He ended up working with the HUB Online Network, where he did promotional videos and a couple of interviews, and helped out with the summer movie camp. He also helped with the running of the other kids’ camps, and was a first aid consultant with the Crazy Café, since he has Level 1 First Aid. “There were a lot of cuts.”
He says that everyone at the HUB was really good about his work with the fire department. “It was a great experience. They said ‘Take what time you need for the firefighting, you go if you need to.’”
Between the firefighting and the job, Aie says he still managed to find a few days to chill here and there over the summer, but there was a lot of work.
“There were a lot of fires, and we were on alert for a long time. I was doing shift work on Tremont Creek: one day I’d be with my brother, the next day with my dad.
“I’m back in school now, in Grade 11, but it’s great to know that we have this great team for our community, and it’s crazy to see how well they work together.”