Smoke drifted into the salty air Monday as Halifax’s new fire rescue boat, bearing the Mi’kmaw name for the harbour on which it floats, was officially welcomed with applause and a smudging ceremony.
The Kjipuktuk (Halifax), the new Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency harbour fire rescue boat, sprayed long streams of water as it pulled into Monday’s dedication ceremony at the Alderney Ferry Terminal in Dartmouth.
Kjipuktuk, meaning ‘”great harbour,” was the name Mi’kmaw people first gave to the harbour and Halifax area.
“Seeing our language and our culture incorporated into everyday things like this fire boat is important. It’s heartwarming and it’s much, much needed,” said Chief Deborah Robinson of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs during the event.
“We are on a good path of reconciliation here in HRM and I hope that we can continue to see the same, not only here … but across our territory for our Indigenous brothers and sisters throughout Canada.”
After smudging the vessel itself, Mi’kmaw Elder Jane Abram presented the Kjipuktuk’s crew with a gift of tobacco to keep on board.
The nearly $1.3-million watercraft was delivered last month, and since then crew members have been training on the vessel. It replaces the fire service’s existing rigid hull inflatable boat, which had few firefighting capabilities and couldn’t stay in the water year-round.
Halifax Fire Chief Ken Stuebing said they had been working on purchasing the new boat for a few years, which was built in Kingston, Ont., by MetalCraft Marine and has a lifespan of up to 30 years.
After the event, Stuebing said since the new boat can fight fires from the water, areas like Purdy’s Wharf or Alderney Landing itself can now be protected on all sides if a fire erupts.
For their roughly two rescue calls a month, Stuebing said they can now respond much more quickly — even in the winter months — making a “big difference” for someone’s chances of survival if they’ve gone into the water.
The Kjipuktuk also has space below decks for the crew to stay warm and safe in rough weather and cold conditions, which the old inflatable boat did not.
The new boat can be used 24/7 and stay at its Alderney Landing berth all year. It can deliver more than 3,000 gallons of water per minute, which Stuebing said is about the same capacity as two trucks.
Its primary roles will be firefighting and rescue services in the Halifax harbour and nearby islands, shores, marinas and buildings along the water.
Stuebing said he was proud of the Halifax Fire members for suggesting “the right name,” which was eventually chosen out of many other suggestions after consulting with the Office of Diversity & Inclusion and Indigenous advisers.
Not only is the Kjipuktuk name an important step in reconciliation and building better relationships with Indigenous people, Stuebing said, but shows Halifax Fire is representative of the community it serves.
“It is important … for people to see themselves in our organization. So not only will they understand that we are respectful of that equity and diversity across the community for calls that we’re on, but also … they might be interested in considering a career with us,” Stuebing said.
The vessel’s call sign will remain Fire Boat 1.
The boat is operated by staff from Station #13 (King Street), with support from Station #15 (Woodside). It’s expected to be fully operational by this fall, once training is complete.