Young people with a desire to fight fires will soon be able to try on firefighting for size, as the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) moves ahead with plans to establish a Regional Junior Firefighter Program.
The program is designed to give youth, ages 15 to 17, an opportunity to learn basic firefighting skills in a safe and inclusive environment. It is also hoped that interest in the program will enhance the future recruitment of firefighters in the region.
The CSRD board enthusiastically approved the initiative, citing the benefits of engaging youth in community service and volunteerism, as well as teaching important skills such as first aid and safety training.
“This is an important mentorship opportunity for young people, with the hope to build future capacity for our fire departments as well,” said Karen Cathcart, Electoral Area A director.
Derek Sutherland, team leader, protective services, says the program has been offered with success in other jurisdictions and the District of Sicamous currently has a similar program in place.
CSRD staff have also been in discussions with representatives from area high schools, who will offer up to four course credits each year to students who participate.
“The fire department benefits from a steady influx of already trained recruits, if the junior participants are interested in joining the departments as a regular member once they turn 18,” said Sutherland.
“A significant part of the program is to teach the value of community service, which is key for volunteer fire departments.”
Junior firefighters will not respond to fire calls, but may assist in clean-up activities after an incident.
The student will also be issued all the appropriate protective equipment and will be closely supervised by experienced firefighters.
“Safety of the students who participate in the program is a top priority and focus in the program,” said Sutherland. “Students will participate in a modified training program designed to limit exposure to higher hazard activities.”