From its humble beginnings in 1965, the Errington Volunteer Fire Department has come a long way with the latest in firefighting technology but its number one asset — manpower — currently falls short of its target.
The volunteer firefighter numbers are down significantly in Errington, according to Deputy Chief Ken Armour.
“Our numbers are getting low and this could eventually put the level of fire protection in Errington in danger.”
The department currently has 18 firefighters but would prefer to have between 25 and 30.
Over the years volunteer numbers have fluctuated but the numbers have never been this low.
“We have made some major accomplishments over the last five to 10 years and if the sentiment ‘someone else will do it’ continues, we could see these efforts lost,” he admitted.
Volunteers don’t need any experience to join but they do need to be physically fit and have a desire to learn.
“We are not asking for much of your time, just a commitment to Tuesday evenings plus call outs when you are available.”
Ask any of the firefighters who volunteer on the EVFD and they will tell you the job is rewarding.
George Klemm joined the department in 1973 when he was just 14 years old.
The fire captain said there is a lot to learn and you have to be available but the sense of accomplishment that comes from helping people is all worth it.
“People are very appreciative of what we do when they need us. We try to go over and above what expectations are in customer service,” Klemm said.
Klemm added there are many benefits that come with the job, including the extensive emergency response training.
The Errington department is part of the First Responder Program which dispatches an emergency fire vehicle and trained personnel to an accident scene. The volunteer firefighters provide live support until B.C. Ambulance personnel arrive.
He said the fire-fighting part of the job can be hard at times but the adrenalin rush of fighting a fire is one of the motivating factors that keep you coming out once a week for fire practice.
“For most people it is exciting. You have to think on the spot and adapt to meet the needs of each situation,” he said.
Fire calls come at any time of day or night, and Klemm admitted it sometimes pushes your limits, but that’s how you grow.
“You end up with skill sets you can use throughout your life.”
He said the extensive training they receive can be used as a springboard into other careers.
He said team building is a big part of what they do and their firefighters end up with excellent command and leadership skills.
It takes between three to six months to learn the basics and then each recruit is reviewed. If they pass, they obtain rookie status and are on call to perform limited duties.
After about six months as a rookie, there is another assessment and if all goes well the volunteer gets a yellow hat and full firefighter status.
There are many benefits to joining.
The department pays for all training including out of town courses. For each call a firefighter attends; there is a clothing and gas allowance. An added bonus is the department provides life and disability insurance to its firefighters.
Many of the volunteers in Errington say they like the fact that the department is progressive and Klemm agrees that having modern equipment is a big draw.
Practices are every Tuesday evening from 7 to 10 p.m. and members are expected to attend 75 per cent of practices per month.
You have to be at least 19 years of age and in reasonable physical health. You must be willing to commit at least four hours per week in training, as well as the occasional work bee.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer can call 248-5601.