Honeymoon Bay fire chief Keith Bird says rural halls are on a membership drive and that new recruits help retain older members.

Honeymoon Bay fire chief Keith Bird says rural halls are on a membership drive and that new recruits help retain older members.

Volunteer firefighting offers chance to serve community

Recruit and retain: rural fire hall on a membership drive

Your community needs a few more heroes. And your chance to step up comes this weekend.

On Saturday, Youbou, Mesachie Lake, Honeymoon Bay will be among six volunteer fire departments from the Cowichan Valley collaborating on a recruitment and retention program.

The goal is to find more keen and dedicated volunteers who have the time and commitment to become firefighters in their communities.

During a special session at the Sahtlam Fire Hall, you can ask questions, receive information and hear first-hand accounts of how rewarding volunteer firefighting can be.

These six communities have one thing in common: they tend to be small communities and have little work in the area. Members have to travel outside of their community to work and are not able to be called to fight fires if necessary. This is why attracting new recruits is so important.

“We are an older retirement community with less younger people in it,” Honeymoon Bay fire chief Keith Bird said.

“We are looking for new recruits because they bring in new skills, new directions and new motivation. It also helps with retention for our older members as well, when they see new people joining up they want to be part of it and mentor these people.”

To volunteer, you need to be 19 or older, with a clean bill of health and Class 5 valid drivers licence. Junior members aged 16 to 19 are welcome and will be utilized in a non-firefighting role. Members 19 to 65 (or 85 in the case of founding member R. Taylor at Sahtlam) receive National Fire Protection Association approved training — the 13 essential skills needed to fight fires to the standard held across North America.

Being physically fit is an asset, but there are many jobs not on the front line that can be accomplished by someone in less-than-top condition.

“Nobody is put in danger. We can do this right, firefighters lives come first, before we can save anyone else we make sure we are safe,” Bird said. “Safety is number one in all firefighting”

Males and females are welcome.

“We do medical first response calls and 50% of our calls could be for females, there is nothing better than walking in to treat a female community member and having a first responder that they are comfortable with.” Bird added.

“Being a member of a small hall is all about community. When you go to someone’s home at three o’clock in the morning they are glad to see you because they know you, they are comfortable with you before the ambulance gets there.”

The job is not all saving lives or structures. Social events, parades, fundraising for M.S. and regular training sessions all play big parts. Still, Bird said, there is room for it in most lifestyles.

“Being a volunteer firefighter your family comes first, your job second and all volunteer things come third, so members might only come to regular practice two hours a week. There may be an extra hour here and there depending on your position in the unit.”

There is no cost to join. Safety equipment and training is paid for and a small stipend is paid by the CVRD on a participatory basis. Insurance is also provided.

“What you gain is the lifesaving training that you can use all your life,” Bird said.

“I found I treated my kids and relatives more than any one else, it’s a life skill you take away with you.”

If you are interested, members from Malahat, Sahtlam, and North Oyster will join the three Cowichan Lake halls at the Sahtlam Fire Hall, 4384 Cowichan Lake Road on Sept. 28 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. to fill you in on the details.