Our Philosophy & History


Fircom Summer camp group photo

Fircom’s purpose is to provide the opportunity for people to form a healthy, sustainable community in nature. These communities are formed by Fircom-led programs or rental groups. To create this type of community, Fircom programs focus on the well-being of the individual, the group, and the environment. Fircom is able to offer quality, affordable camping programs by running a top-notch, year-round venue rental service.


There are four pillars to how Fircom achieves its purpose: education, environment, spirituality, and health and wellness.


Fircom believes that education is a means to conquer the challenges facing our world, and therefore provides the spaces, tools, and instructors to create unforgettable educational moments. Fircom programs are designed using the experiential education philosophy in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop people's capacity to contribute to their communities.


Fircom is a sacred location found in nature. It started as a sanctuary to give people living in Downtown Eastside tenements a chance to be restored by the natural rhythms of island life. Giving people an opportunity to connect with themselves and others happens best in a natural environment away from the distractions of modern, city living.

Fircom is in a continuous cycle of reimagining and experimenting with how to live lightly upon the earth. Fircom fosters passionate stewardship of the environment by helping people feel the joy of running through the woods, rooting around in the dirt, watching deer and eagles go about their business, and stopping to feel the sun on their face. Learn more about how we make this magic happen by reading about our Farm and Food.


Fircom is part of The United Church of Canada. This wonderful religious organization has a long tradition of spiritual freedom, a wide theological spectrum and a diversity of interpretations and understandings. Faith at Fircom is about meaning, creativity, justice, tradition, care of creation, rest, and the freedom to question, within relationships and within community. Fircom programs encourage participants to take part in spiritual exploration. This often takes the form of a theme to each day, or the whole program, on topics like mercy or forgiveness – values we hold dear.

While many Fircomites are members of the United Church – many are from other religious faiths, agnostic, or atheist. Fircom believes in people’s freedom to express and live out their faith in diverse ways. At Fircom, god is welcome and you might hear someone loving on Christ in a respectful, non-proselytizing manner. You will also hear non-Christians questioning, exploring and explaining what faith and spirituality mean to them. Fircom is a safe, respectful place to explore faith and spirituality.

Read more about what faith and spirituality look like at our summer camps page.

Learn more about the United Church and what is stands for here.

Health & Wellness

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. At Fircom, people are able to connect with all parts of their health. There are many options and opportunities to be physically active: canoeing, archery, kayaking, hiking, play games and sports, swimming, etc. People have the chance to reflect on the state of their mental health and step-outside the normal stress of everyday life. Being on an island with no distractions helps people have time to connect and enjoy the company of others to be a part of a community no matter how brief their time at Fircom.


Camp Fircom in 1920s

1923 - 1929

Camp Fircom began as a mission in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, Canada's poorest neighbourhood. The camp was an outreach program of First Presbyterian Church (the forerunner of First United Church) and Community Services (the forerunner of Social Services). The name came from these two institutions: FIR from "First" and COM from “Community”.

Rev. J. Richmond Craig was concerned about the crowded living conditions of the rooming houses of the Downtown Eastside and in particular about the mothers and children living in squalid conditions. Rev. Craig and members of his congregation rowed out into the Howe Sound to explore a homestead on Gambier Island. This lead to the purchase of 65 acres of property that was later developed into Camp Fircom. It became a place of rest and healing for many that couldn't afford to escape the challenges of living in a growing city.

In the early years, campers arrived by rowboat and slept in tents in the open fields. The original farmhouse was used as the kitchen and dining hall. Campers ate in shifts as only 15 people could be accommodated at a time. The meat, milk and butter were cooled in the stream that runs through the property. Eventually six small cabins were built to accommodate the growing camp. After six summers of camping, Rev. J. Richmond Craig moved to Winnipeg in late 1929.

1930 - 1948

Camp Fircom in 1930s

The major construction of camp buildings is credited to the Reverend Andrew Roddan, the superintendent of the First United Church. In anticipation of the 1935 Golden Jubilee of the First United Church, a major fundraising campaign was launched. The goal was to rebuild the church, create a new Welfare Industries facility, and construct a dining hall for Camp Fircom. While the campaign was only partly successful, Jubilee Hall was constructed. Through donated building materials and a combination of paid and volunteer labour, Roddan got the hall, and a few other smaller buildings, completed in time for the 1936 summer camping season. Jubilee Hall became the physical heart of the camp.

Until his death in 1948, Andrew Roddan was the major personality presenting the needs of Camp Fircom to the wider community. He believed deeply in the mission of Camp Fircom and injected much of his time and energy to expand Fircom’s ability to deliver.

2005 - 2010

In 2005, Camp Fircom was temporarily closed as a major renovation was needed. In 2008, Fircom began undergoing renovation with the support and visioning from Fircom’s Board of Directors and alumni. The financial and leadership support came from BC Conference of the United Church of Canada. In May 2011, Fircom re-opened its doors to a new site under a new management team with a direction that respects its great roots and the history of the camp.