Umesh Lal, Nanaimo Fire rescue fire prevention officer, middle, starts a water fight with firefighters Greg Finstad, left, and Jason Lynch in a video shot for the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund Burn Camp, which was held virtually in July. (Image submitted)

Nanaimo firefighters get soaked to help burn fund

Firefighters film gag video wins people’s choice award

Nanaimo firefighters and young burn survivors amped up a donation presentation to not only make their film debuts, but win a people’s choice award.

Each July the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund hosts Burn Camp for young burn survivors age six to 18. Firefighters from Nanaimo and elsewhere volunteer as camp counsellors, but because of COVID-19 this is the first year the burn survivors and counsellors couldn’t hold camp in person, so Burn Camp was hosted virtually with fire departments creating and submitting videos to announce donations and send messages to the kids.

Nanaimo Firefighters Charitable Society raised $2,500 from donations made to the society throughout the year during community events or training sessions with local service clubs and organizations.

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“We have our own fishing derby where we all get together and go raise money that way … or service clubs that are doing something and say they need first aid [volunteers], so then we go there and do that sort of stuff,” said Umesh Lal, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer and B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund board director. “So that’s the majority of it. Just helping out other organizations.”

One of the Burn Camp traditions is for counsellors and burn survivors to have a water fight that could involve up to 90 kids and counsellors on the opening day of the camp, but with camp going virtual because of COVID-19, Nanaimo firefighters opted to take the water fight online.

“The fire service is a bunch of Type A personalities that want to one-up everybody else,” Lal said. “This year, because everything was virtual, you could either just send in a picture or story or video. One thing led to another.”

Firefighters shot the video at Harewood Centennial Park and cast firefighters Greg Finstad, Lal, Justin Lynch and Nanaimo Fire Rescue chief Karen Fry, using water guns and fire hoses to make sure everyone got a soaking that would look good on camera, especially in slow motion. A musical score was even added to enhance the dramatic effect of the deluge.

The video, along with submissions from other fire departments, was made the third week of July when camp counsellors and up to 60 burn survivors came together online to share pictures and stories from over the past year and of what they did with camp counsellors in their own communities. Lal said sharing the experiences online gave the kids a continued sense of belonging and continuity of the relationships they’d built up together over the years. The kids attending this year’s virtual burn camp chose Nanaimo’s video as their favourite among the submissions.

“There was a total of 13 videos submitted from firefighter locals across the province, who were all competing for the title of People’s Choice Award,” said Nicole Clark, British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund, communications director, in an e-mail.

To learn more about the British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund, visit

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