For many, bushcraft is a passion, not a job.
But for some, the job isn’t what it used to be, and their skills aren’t up to par with the latest equipment.
That’s why the bushcraft industry is in crisis.
And it’s a major reason the federal government wants to overhaul the industry to better cater to its changing demographics.
“It’s going to be the job of our generation to do it,” says Mark Flemming, a senior adviser to the Minister of the Interior, who oversees the bushfire and fire services.
“We have to do better.”
The job has been a career changer for many people, who can now travel far and wide, or even take part in remote bushcraft competitions, in a career they might have thought was a hobby.
But the industry is changing too, with younger generations moving into it as well.
Some are starting to take advantage of their skills to help fight wildfires.
“People are becoming increasingly aware of the potential impacts of wildfire, so they want to be involved,” says Jason McLeod, a fire management expert with the Alberta-based Canadian Institute for Risk Assessment (CIRA).
The federal government is making it easier for people to take up the work of bushcraft and the industry’s changing demographics by making it more accessible to people.
“For the first time, you can apply for a bushfire training certificate in your first two years of training,” says Dave Wotherspoon, the minister responsible for the bushfires.
The province also announced a new tax credit program to help people start their own bushcraft projects, which are exempt from provincial and federal taxes.
“If you’ve got a budget for a small backyard, a bush camp or a small family fire, that’s great,” says Wothers.
“But if you want to start a larger fire, you need to take a lot more risk.”
But what does that mean for a person who wants to learn how to be a bush pilot?
First, it’s important to remember that the job is only as safe as the bush it’s on.
“You don’t have to be in a position of responsibility in the bush, you just have to know the skills,” says McLeod.
The training process starts with an orientation that helps you identify what you want in life, and then moves into a series of online courses, some of which are in Canadian, some in English.
The first four or five weeks are the most intensive, and the rest are more “casual,” says Flemms, who says the curriculum helps you develop your skills, and teaches you what it takes to be an effective fire fighter.
“The skills we teach in the course are very practical and real,” he says.
The focus is on safety, so the first thing you do is learn the skills of bushfire fighting.
It’s a bit like the fire marshal, says McLeods.
“There are a lot of safety skills,” he adds.
It helps if you’re not afraid of getting caught in the crossfire, but you’re also not going to get killed.
McLeod says some training programs are geared to adults, but the rest of the curriculum is geared to children.
“I think that’s really important,” he explains.
The courses are designed to prepare people for a variety of careers, and include fire safety, emergency management, bush hunting, bush medicine, and bush-building.
“A lot of people don’t realise that there’s a wide variety of professions in this industry,” says John McNeil, the director of communications for the Forestry Industry Association of Canada (FIRAC).
“The curriculum is designed to help prepare you for that.”
McNeil says he has seen more people come in from all over the country who want to join the industry.
“This industry has grown dramatically in recent years,” he said.
“Now, there are a couple of new companies coming in every year, and there are companies like the Calgary Fire Centre that have developed a number of programs specifically for the industry.”
In some cases, students who attend these programs have their own businesses to run, and McNeil believes that is one of the main reasons why they are able to keep their businesses open.
“They’re not going out to get people, they’re going out there to make money,” he explained.
The government is also introducing a new training certificate that will be offered to people who are able and willing to take part, in addition to the existing ones.
“What’s new is that we’ve had the opportunity to offer a variety.
There are two different certificates that will provide a wide range of skills,” said McLeod.
“One is for students who are at the junior level or under 20, and is geared towards people who have some basic knowledge of the fire service, fire infrastructure, firefighting techniques.”
The other certificate is for people who already have the skills to fly a plane, but are not prepared for the more advanced skills. “That’s