By Trevor Busch
Recruitment is the backbone of any volunteer fire department, and with some degree of turnover ever-present, seeking out new faces to replace those the department has lost is a vital aspect of operations.
“We live in pretty fantastic communities, where people really want to try to help out and give back to the communities and help support their communities in some way. And our fire departments are definitely one of those ways,” said Nathan Coté, regional fire chief for Municipal District of Taber Regional Fire Services. “And so when it comes to recruitment on the fire service, we can always use more, we never want to say we have enough people, we could always use more. But we’re pretty fortunate that people do step up and help us out. All of our stations, we would always accept more applications and more folks for volunteering throughout the regional service. But that being said, it’s always the toughest to find volunteers in some of our really small communities, there’s obviously just not as many people there, but we’re pretty fortunate to have some really dedicated people. And we hope to continue to bring a few more in when we can for sure.”
Coté says there are multiple avenues of approach if one was interested in trying their hand.
“So the absolute easiest way is if you go right onto the MD of Taber website, there’s a recruitment thing on there. You can click it, fill out an online application, send it directly to me. That’s one of the really easy ways. If you stop by any of our stations, there’s usually a mail slot on the outside of the building that has applications in it that you can take, fill out and bring back should you choose. I believe some contact information is also in those pamphlets that can connect you directly to me as well. But probably the the very easiest way is if you know a member, you can talk to them, or go straight to our website.”
The MD’s fire service has some standards of physicality and other benchmarks that need to be met, but Coté was careful to illustrate people shouldn’t be too daunted.
“So what we look for is someone between 16 and 65 years of age, we do have a junior firefighter programme. So from 16 – 18. With parental consent, we can take on members as a junior program, or they can attend a few of our smaller calls, they can do some training and education with us. And as they turn 18 they become a full fledged member of the fire service. Other than that, if you’re between 18 and 65, you can certainly join, what we’d ask is we would like you to have a driver’s licence – obviously, you’ll need some way to get to the fire hall and back – so driver’s licence, a fairly decent driving record behind you would would always be good, clean criminal record checks. So we require a criminal record check for each of our members that come in. And yes, there’s a bit of physical capabilities that are needed to perform firefighter tasks and so we certainly would like you to be in decent shape. That being said, though, there’s always jobs for everyone and we can make most things work for sure.”
On the training front, further improvement of skills is always desired and necessary.
“I think some of the big things that we’ve been doing is we’re trying to concentrate on our firefighter training, and making sure that all of our firefighters receive training in order to be able to perform their jobs as firefighters. We had a gentleman from Calgary come in and teach a vehicle extrication course – some of the calls that we go to the most, I guess, would be a lot of wildland firefighting fires that we respond to, as well as as vehicle collisions. And so we had a gentleman come from Calgary to help train our members on vehicle extrication. He spent the weekend with us training and giving some guidance for us. So from there, we’re working towards our own training programmes and improving those and continuing to move forward and trying to do the best job that we can do when we have those bad accidents out on highways or roads. So things are things are going really well within our training programme. We continue to grow and learn more each year, each month for that matter, and keep moving forward,” said Coté.
Recruitment is always ongoing, but the department may be targeting some smaller centres in the region in the fall and spring.
“We’re starting to set up recruitment drives in some of our stations in the spring, in the fall, in some of our bigger centres like Taber here and Vauxhall or smaller communities. We’re just happy if people want to step forward and volunteer, we’ll take them on at that point in time and work with them through an orientation programme to get them a little bit of training and education under their belts before we start sending them out to fire calls,” said Coté. “This summer we were able to host a little barbecue out in out in Grassy Lake and we were very fortunate to bring on two or three new members out there so that worked out really well for us and so we’re hoping to do something very similar in the Hays/Enchant area. Hopefully we’ll encourage a few members or a few new people to put their name in the hat and become firefighters or volunteer firefighters themselves.”