FSWO announces 2019 winner of the President’s Trailblazer Award, Firefighter Jess Clermont

This President’s Trailblazer Award is a very special award because it is one that while based on the recommendation of the members in FSWO, the president personally get to decide who they think would be the most deserving recipient. It is the honor and pleasure of FSWO to present the award to Toronto Firefighter Jess Clermont.

The President’s Trailblazer Award is presented annually to a current member who has been nominated by his or her peers and selected by the FSWO President. This award recognizes the individual's commitment to the goals and objectives of FSWO and their contribution to the fire service and their community. The award recognizes a FSWO member who has proven to be an innovative leader who has blazed a trail for others to follow. The recipient of this award has made outstanding contributions to women in the fire service and includes, but is not limited to: inspiration to others; an excellent role model; positively influences the actions and opinions of others; encourages and supports colleagues; shows initiative; perseveres in the face of criticism or adversity; has high ethical standards; is willing to ‘go that extra mile’; builds trust and is able to form partnerships to resolve issues; and maintains a positive outlook.

Jess is known as a humble but effective leader who continuously identifies opportunities to educate, encourage and empower both her fellow and aspiring firefighters. She is the founding member of the Toronto Fire Service Women’s hockey team, the first in Canada comprised of female firefighters and she is involved with the Centennial College Pre-Service Program and the FireFit Combat Challenge. She also is a coach of women’s lacrosse and hockey, and through her many work and extracurricular activities, has become an advocate that has inspired young girls and members of the public on the value that women bring to the fire service and the sporting community.

Any aspiring firefighter who is fortunate enough to cross paths with Jess realizes instantly that she is their biggest ally and advocate, who will steadfastly be by their side as a mentor, cheerleader and coach. Jess in her work with Centennial College has been instrumental in starting, supporting and coaching the college’s first ever FireFit competitive team - 2019 was its inaugural year. The team and individuals qualified for the world’s competition and won 6 medals. Jess is also an accomplished FireFit competitor herself and has been undefeated in the X-3 Tandem, including two gold medals at the national championships in 2014 and 2015. As a member of the Toronto Fire Women’s Relay Team, she set a new record in 2015 that still stands; and the team won gold.

Worthy of note as well is in relation to her FireFit coaching role where many of the props, training and workout equipment were purchased or built by Jess which also included expending her personal time and expertise to coach after-hours and on weekends. Students connect with Jess’s straightforward approach and appreciate her commitment and dedication to improving the fire service by ensuring they strive and prepare to be excellent candidates.

Jess is a huge advocate for professional learning and growth and was appointed as a Toronto Fire Services Shift Training Instructor. Forcible entry is one of her areas of expertise, which she has developed and conducted several training sessions including the FSWO Symposiums. She has also participated in the 9/11 memorial stair climb in honour of firefighters who lost their lives at the World Trade Centre the Where There Is Smoke project, a project of work stories by female firefighters. The stories she shared were riveting. They were also heartbreaking. Jess opened up about the loss of one of her crew members to suicide. A true leader allows themselves to be vulnerable and to share that vulnerability with others. Jess’s willingness to share her feelings about this loss is a testament to her leadership and commitment to tackle something that continues to carry intense stigma in the fire service.

Jess is a true inspiration, and has done more to educate, empower and encourage women in the fire service, and those aspiring to such a career, than many people do in an entire career. Jess is considered a true trail blazer and FSWO is pleased to give the 2019 President’s Trailblazer Award to Toronto Firefighter, Jess Clermont.

Nominator: Firefighter Julie Petruzzellis, Toronto Fire Services