Becoming a firefighter can be a big responsibility, but it also offers rewards that are unparalleled when it comes to what someone can offer their community.
“It’s as challenging as it is rewarding,” Canal Flats fire chief Stuart Moore said.
Across the Columbia Valley, fire halls are actively seeking new volunteers to join their ranks. Whether someone lives in Edgewater, Radium Hot Springs, Invermere or Canal Flats and anywhere in between, there is an opportunity to make a difference in each respective community by becoming a volunteer firefighter.
“Volunteer firefighting is a great family-friendly, and flexible way to give back to the community,” said Columbia Valley Rural Fire and Rescue Services deputy fire chief Martin Caldwell. “Firefighters are compensated for their time at most halls, and certified training is useful to young members of the community looking to build a resume. Most of all, it’s healthy, challenging and fun.”
Beginning with the four fire halls that make up the Columbia Valley Rural Fire and Rescue Services — Panorama, Edgewater, Fairmont Hot Springs and Windermere — each of the four are facing a shortage of volunteers, although the need is most pronounced in Edgewater and Fairmont.
While the ideal minimum amount of firefighters for any department is 20, both Edgewater and Fairmont have only 12 firefighters apiece, well below the target number. Panorama and Windermere, while faring slightly better at 20 firefighters at each, are also still looking for further volunteers to bolster their roster as well.
Firefighters practice once a week between 7 and 9 p.m., and Caldwell said the best way to get a feel for what goes into becoming a volunteer firefighter is to attend one of their practices. In Edgewater, practices take place on Monday at 5727 Vermillion Street, Edgewater. In Panorama and Windermere, practice is on Tuesday nights at 2340 Springs Creek Road in Panorama and 1627 Highway 93/95, respectively. Practice in Fairmont takes place on Thursdays at 4879 Fairmont Creek Road.
“The ideal minimum at each hall is 20 firefighters, up to 30 at the larger and busier halls,” Caldwell said. “Most halls are currently operating eight to 10 people below their targets. Due to the training demands, intake of new untrained members only occurs once a year, so time is critical to get applications in.”
Requirements for becoming a firefighter include submitting to medical, background, criminal record and driving record checks, and attending at least 48 hours of training per year. Basic physical fitness is also encouraged. A recruiting page has been set up on Facebook under ‘Columbia Valley Fire and Rescue’ where applicants may find more information and recruitment forms. Recruiting closes at the end of November, and basic training for new firefighters will run on Tuesdays and some Saturdays from mid-January until late March.
In the three municipal fire departments in the Columbia Valley, a similar volunteer shortage has the firehalls in Invermere, the Village of Radium Hot Springs and the Village of Canal Flats all seeking new volunteers as well. In both Canal Flats and Radium, each department currently counts 17 firefighters while aiming ideally for about 25, and in Invermere fire chief Roger Ekman has 25 firefighters while hoping to bring that number up to at least 30. The same requirements apply, and while each department handles training differently, there is a general probationary period before new recruits are sent out on call. Practices take place in Radium on Mondays at 7:30 p.m., in Canal Flats on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. and in Invermere on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. For more information on joining the respective municipal firehalls, contact the municipal offices.