A burning need for firefighting recruits

If you can stand the heat, the Salmon Arm Fire Department would like to meet you.

If you can stand the heat, the Salmon Arm Fire Department would like to meet you.

The paid, on-call department is conducting a recruitment drive.

Assistant Fire Chief Rod Macfarlane says fire department officials like to have a complement of some 20 firefighters at each of their four halls – Hall 1 in Canoe, Hall 2 on North Broadview, Hall 3 downtown and Hall 4 in Gleneden.

While the numbers are good at halls 2 and 3, the other two halls are short about six firefighters each.

Macfarlane says the downtown and North Broadview halls are located where the majority of residents reside.

“The people are very committed,” he says of the Canoe and Gleneden halls. “They stretch their commitment and they end up on duty more than they deserve.”

Macfarlane says it takes about a year to fully train firefighters on fighting fires and on firefighting strategy.

“You have to know the strategy and tactics to fight a fire, and all the training leads toward that goal,” he says. “We need to make sure recruits are well-trained and can safely and effectively respond to fires.”

And the training does not come cheap. Just to get recruits into fire turnout gear costs $2,000 for the pants and coat alone. The hat is $250, gloves are $100 and boots are another $350. The pager is an additional $450.

For that reason, the department is looking for men and women over the age of 19, who have a job and are more likely to stay in town and with the department.

“We don’t want someone to show up here and have to leave after a couple of months,”  he adds.

Macfarlane is adamant that women are very welcome to answer the call, as others have in the past.

“We have had four women in the department and they all enjoyed it,” he says. “We were lucky to have had them; they proved themselves to be very valuable firefighters.”

When the first woman joined the department many years ago, Macfarlane says there was a bit of an issue. But the maturity level has improved and everyone is welcome to join.

“We don’t show favouritism, they’re just one of the crew, just another firefighter.”

Macfarlane realizes the recruitment training program, at almost a year long, is a major commitment for people.

“But the number-one thing is all of a sudden, you’re a member of a large family,” says the longtime fire department member. “People are willing to do a lot for each other, and the longer you’re here, the bigger the family grows.”

Anyone who is up to the challenge is invited to call the administration office at 250-803-4060, or drop in at one of the halls when Tuesday training sessions are underway, from 7 to 9 p.m.