A relationship brought Ashley Corrigan to Canada, but it was her love of firefighting that kept the American in the Great White North.
Corrigan was born and raised in La Verne Calif., located just outside of Los Angeles, and attended Colorado State University-Pueblo where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
She attended the post-secondary institution on a softball scholarship, and met her Canadian boyfriend through the sport.
“He was from Canada, of all places,” she said.
Fresh out of school, Corrigan began working as a marketing director and soon realized it was’t the career for her.
“I did not like sitting around in an office all day,” she said. “It wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted to live.”
“I’m a very active person, so sitting around all day in front of a computer tired me out,” Corrigan said.
After just a year on the job between 2012 and 2013, she decided to move to Manitoba to be with her boyfriend.
She applied for her residency, which took a year to be processed, and in the meantime she went to Mexico to work at a resort.
It was during this time she got the idea to become a firefighter.
“When I worked in Mexico, I met a lot females and males who could not talk more highly about this career,” said Corrigan. “Out of every career I’ve had, out of every internship I’ve done, I’ve never heard anyone talk so highly [about the job].”
Corrigan began looking into the profession and even took a few tours of fire halls in Winnipeg.
“It struck me,” said Corrigan, noting that she became intrigued with the job and the lifestyle.
“It is hard, it’s competitive and it is strenuous — I mean I’m not the biggest person,” she said. “It can be difficult, but the push makes me want to do it even more.”
In 2015, Corrigan attended a fire academy program in Winnipeg, which had a two week training stint in Texas.
Although her relationship didn’t last, but she remained in Winnipeg and attended paramedics school from Sept. 2015 to this past August.
After completing that, Corrigan was accepted into the work experience firefighter program (WEP) in Merritt.
Merritt’s work experience program is one of just four in Canada, all of which are located in B.C. The other three are in Big White, Sun Peaks and Creston.
After receiving training at fire academies, these firefighter hopefuls come to Merritt to gain work experience for a year at the local fire station while they apply for full-time firefighting jobs.
The department started the program in response to recruitment and retention difficulties, and it helps bridge the gap between a volunteer fire service and a career fire department.
Corrigan said she likes Merritt because it’s a small town.
“I grew up in a big city and I wasn’t a fan,” said Corrigan. “California’s crowded — there’s a lot of people in California.”
“I was born a city girl, but I’m not a city girl.”
Corrigan became a permanent resident in January of 2015, and said she intends to stay.
“I like Canada,” she said.
Corrigan is currently in the process of securing a job at a full-time fire department.