The City of Thompson is excited to announce the promotion of Captain Ashling Sweeny to the role of Deputy Fire Chief with Thompson Fire and Emergency Services, making her our first female Deputy Fire Chief in Thompson!
Ashling is a member of Pimicikamak Cree Nation, and she started her emergency services career as an EMS responder and volunteer firefighter in her home community. She was drawn to the dynamic, fast-paced work, and was one of the first people in her community to attend fire college to become a full-time, professional firefighter.
Thompson Fire and Emergency Services trains with fire departments from northern communities on a regular basis, and Ashling still gets to support the fire department with whom she started her career.
“The department at Cross Lake has really come a long way since my days at EMS there,” said Ashling. “Better training, better equipment: I’m really proud of how far northern firefighting has come over the years.”
As Deputy Fire Chief, Ashling’s first priority will be the physical and mental health of the FireMedics under her care. She’ll also be working with the department leadership to build on and further the department’s skillsets, like ice rescue, hazardous materials, and more.
She especially sees wants to help the department create more opportunities for new paramedics and firefighters in Thompson to have positive experiences with Indigenous culture and history:
“We get a lot of young firefighters fresh out of college from down south, and many haven’t even met a lot of Indigenous people. Then they come to Thompson and they’re thrown head-first into the ugliest parts of our history in the north, of addictions, homelessness, and more,” she explains.
“It’s not a fair way to experience our community: not for them as newcomers, and not for the thousands of Cree, Dene, and Metis people who are working hard to raise families and make Thompson a better place. I want them to have the chance to see the culture I know.”
Ashling had a lot of strong role models that shaped the person she is today, including her mother, and she remembers the time she spent with her on the trap line when she was younger.
“It was really physical work, hiking through the woods, carrying animals, on top of coming home to raise eight kids,” she remembered. “Giving up wasn’t an option for her, or being a mom part-time. She woke up every morning and took the opportunities life gave her. When she stumbled, she got right back up.”
For young girls and boys hoping to become firefighters themselves, Ashling has a simple message: “Don’t give up, especially not because someone else told you to.”