Nineteen years old minimum, physically fit and interested in giving back to the community; those are among the requirements for men and women who would like to join the Salmon Arm or Columbia Shuswap Regional District fire departments.
Salmon Arm Fire Chief Brad Shirley and CSRD Protective Services Team Leader Derek Sutherland are both looking for new recruits, who also must have a good driving record and no criminal record.
In Salmon Arm, the need is greater in Hall 1 in Canoe and Hall 4 in Gleneden.
“It’s a common topic among B.C. fire chiefs and every firehall I went by had a sign, ‘firefighters wanted,'” said Shirley, who has just returned from the East Coast. “In my 36 years with the fire department, I don’t ever remember being at full complement. We’re always recruiting in one way or another.”
But there’s no need for concern about the fire department’s response as members from all four halls train and respond to fires together.
“While Hall 1 and 4 are where the lowest numbers are, we could use men and women at each of the four halls,” says Shirley, who notes there are currently 64 paid-on-call firefighters. “The optimum would be between 80 to 100, that would be superb.”
Shirley says the fire department is an awesome organization to be part of, with great camaraderie and many social and family activities throughout the year.
As well, recruits learn many skills beyond fighting fires, with supplemental training in first aid and air brakes, for example.
Regular training takes place at all Salmon Arm Fire Department halls from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays. But new recruits are put through an extensive training program on another evening in order to keep the focus on them. Some weekend training is also provided.
“This can be a challenge for paid-on-call recruits,” says Shirley of the time commitment. “We want to make sure they’re proficient, with safety being number one, so there has to be lots of training.”
Training and turnout gear are provided at no cost and recruits are paid hourly for most of the training sessions they attend.
Anyone who is interested in becoming a Salmon Arm firefighter should go to the main downtown Firehall #3 or go online to www.salmonarm.ca and click on the Fire Protection and Suppression Services on the City Services tab.
On a regional note, Sutherland is also on the lookout for Shuswap recruits with the same qualifications as required by the Salmon Arm Fire Department.
“We’re looking for members in all the fire departments,” says Sutherland. “Some are doing better than others, with some needing many new volunteers and others requiring only a few.
There are 13 fire departments in the CSRD, 12 within the Shuswap.
Swansea Point and Malakwa are within Area E, while Ranchero-Deep Creek, Silver Creek and Falkland sit in Area D. Tappen-Sunnybrae, Shuswap – which has halls in Blind Bay and Sorrento, White Lake and Eagle Bay are departments in Area C South Shuswap while Scotch Creek-Lee Creek, Anglemont and Celista operate in the North Shuswap.
“Shuswap needs members because they have two halls to fill, but the greatest need is in Scotch Creek and White Lake,” Sutherland says. “Twenty members per hall is good, 25 is perfect. That’s when halls are called full and recruiting would be closed.”
As in Salmon Arm, all training and turnout gear are provided at no cost. And as long as recruits are 19 or older, age is not a deterrent to being a member of one of the CSRD fire departments.
“There are auxiliary positions traditionally filled by people who help out with administrative support or people who drive the apparatus and operate the pumps,” says Sutherland. “Our demographics are quite broad, we have both young and old working in the departments. We have people who are teenagers and those who are in their 80s.”
Like Shirley, Sutherland says firefighters find a sense of community, belonging and doing something for the greater good.
“There’s a social need in the community that is being met through the fire departments; it’s a fun place to work and it’s like a service group with a twist,” Sutherland says. “It’s incredibly interesting, sometimes exciting and sometimes tragic work, but it can be rewarding and it’s incredibly important.”
The training commitment is two hours weekly, in most cases on Tuesday nights. But training in Falkland takes place on Wednesdays and in Silver Creek it’s Thursdays. Firefighters are required to attend some weekend training as well.
Applicants in the regional district are invited to go to their local firehall on training night which runs from 7 to 9 p.m. in all locations, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.