While public discourse has been ablaze lately with talks of wildfires raging across British Columbia and western Canada, local volunteer fire departments continue to face a shortage in volunteers. Six local fire departments are banding together to hold a volunteer drive in September, in hopes that the push will encourage more residents to lend their help to the important service, which is as crucial now as ever.
The volunteer drive is being run by all six CVRD departments, which includes the Youbou, Honeymoon Bay, Mesachie Lake, Sahtlam, North Oyster and Malahat volunteer fire departments, some of which have been facing problems in the last few years due to a smaller number of people coming forth to volunteer.
“It’s been a lot tougher to get people lately, which some departments have noticed more than others,” Fire Chief Gary Eve of the Mesachie Lake Volunteer Fire Department said. “Numbers have gone down over the years. Its tougher nowadays for people to volunteer when they’re being pulled in so many directions. It’s not always easy for modern families to make the time commitment.”
Eve noted that there are many benefits and “resume fillers” involved with volunteering with a local fire department as well, including help with receiving air brake tickets, leadership training and first aid tickets, which can be helpful knowledge in both the workplace and elsewhere.
“For me it’s a way to give back to the community,” Eve said. “I love being able to get out and help.”
Eve said that the recent lack of volunteers may be partly due to the regular demographic becoming older, but that “people with that kind of life experience are actually very helpful for fire departments.”
Volunteering with a local fire department is open to those as young as 17, through the Junior Firefighter Program, and anyone who is at least moderately fit, granted that they do not have any respiratory issues that would affect their abilities. Eve noted that the Mesachie Lake Volunteer Fire Department has also had female firefighters since as early as the 1940s.
Aside from firefighters, there is also room for volunteers to serve in medical roles or help with vehicle extraction, as many of the calls these departments receive are vehicle-related.
Eve said that despite the recent heat wave, the Mesachie Volunteer Fire Department has so far been receiving the average amount of fire-related calls this summer, though the total number of calls have been slightly higher.
The volunteer drive will also include an open house at the Malahat Fire Hall, similar to the open house at the Honeymoon Bay Fire Hall last year, which Eve said was successful in recruiting a volunteer.
Eve said that he is also hoping on hosting a CPR class, which will be open to the public, later this year, time permitting.
For more information, call your local volunteer fire department at 250-749-6355 (Honeymoon Bay), 250-749-6277 (Mesachie Lake), 250-745-3414 (Youbou) or the CVRD at 250-746-2561.