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Alumni Star in Discovery Canada's: Hellfire Heroes

Posted on Nov 9, 2018

Photo: Ryan Coutts and Patrick McConnell

Patrick McConnell and Ryan Coutts work for the Lesser Slave Lake (LSL) Regional Fire Service, which was the “ground zero” crew for the 2011 Wildfire that tore through the Town of Slave Lake. Both are graduates of the Emergency Medical Responder program.|

“In the untamed wilderness of Central Alberta, where seasonal wildfires can destroy a town in a single day, a special breed of firefighters risk their lives to serve and protect the people who live and work here,” states the discovery.ca website regarding the Hellfire Heroes series.

Coutts was 15 in 2011 and remembers the day the wildfire entered town. His father is Fire Chief Jamie Coutts, so he had a front row seat. “It was a life-changing experience for me. I had to grow up quickly.” From that day, Ryan knew he wanted to be a firefighter. In 2016, when wildfire tore through Fort McMurray, both Coutts Sr. and Jr. were there. Few firefighters have the experience to deal
with that scope of fire, but the crew from the LSL Regional Fire Service does and they brought all that experience to Fort McMurray.

The success of the series may help in the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters across Canada. “Hopefully this series helps the public understand what the fire service deals with. We need people to volunteer for the fire service,” says Coutts.

Emergency Medical Responders (EMRs) are often ‘first on scene’ during an accident. The EMR program prepares students for the traumatic and stressful situations they will encounter on the job. “This job is definitely not for everyone. It requires a certain nature to handle the different and sometimes traumatic situations you are called out to. Nevertheless, if you are looking for an exciting career where you can help people in need, this program may be a start for you. Do your research, talk to people who are already working in the field and ask questions. They are the people who have been doing it for years and may give you a glimpse of what it would look like as a career,” McConnell states.

Filming for Season 2 of Hellfire Heroes is occurring at the time of this writing. Coutts comments, “We’ve received a lot of positive feedback locally about the series.”