Safron Mask fulfills dream fighting fires

BARRY’S BAY – Although most university students take on summer jobs at coffee shops, grocery stores and swimming pools, Safron Mask has taken a different route with her career path.

Growing up in Barry’s Bay, the Carleton University history student has had the opportunity to be a firefighter for four summers with the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Even in her childhood, Mask recalls a fondness for the great outdoors.
“At a young age, I loved camping. I always went portaging with my brother. I was always cutting wood with my step-dad. Even with my friends, I was tearing around on a four-wheeler,” Mask said.
Currently stationed in Haliburton, in her fourth year as a firefighter, Mask spent three summers in Timmins digging in her spurs and loves the thrill of flying over the treetops.
After being hired by MNR in 2009 alongside her best friend Candace McGuey, Mask has had the opportunity to fly into many locations, all across the country, in a helicopter.
“You really do fly in to so many different locations. Sometimes, the forest fires are small – like one hectare, but sometimes in BC, they’d be thousands of hectares. It’s really exciting to see the dynamic of different landscapes,” she said.
Although Mask was overjoyed when she was initially hired, her family and friends were a little taken aback at the thought of her dive-bombing into forest fires.
“Some of them were shocked and said I was crazy. Yes, I definitely got that reaction. And because I got into Timmins in my first year, a lot of family members thought it was too far away and said that they would miss me.
When I came back and told them what the job was and what it entailed, they were really amazed but still kind of shocked. They couldn’t believe I’d get to fly in a helicopter,” she noted.
As a female, another obstacle that comes with the territory of firefighting for Mask is being in the minority when it comes to gender.
“We are the minority but there definitely are females. They usually try to have one on every crew. In a crew of four people, I am the only girl. But even though the girls are the minority, they are a great group of girls, and we really support each other and stick together. We have girls’ nights and we have a good time,” she stated.
Gender roles aside, Mask has been accepted by everyone within her workplace and sees herself as working within a very balanced atmosphere.
“Everyone has the same attitude because we all have to pass the pre-fit test, on a yearly basis. That is the standard. Female or male, if you pass that test, you are qualified to do that job. I’ve never felt unequal and I’ve never been treated differently, which is a great thing,” Mask added.
Mask also admits that although her job is an exciting one, there are definite swings in the pendulum of action.

Story continues in the August 22 issue of The Valley Gazette.