Rural halls band together to recruit new firefighters

The annual push is on to recruit more firefighters to serve the Cowichan Valley — particularly at five rural halls.

  • Sep. 30, 2015 5:00 p.m.

The annual push is on to recruit more firefighters to serve the Cowichan Valley — particularly at five rural halls within the regional district’s electoral areas.

North Oyster fire chief Jason de Jong explained to the CVRD board recently that firefighters from Honeymoon Bay, Mesachie Lake, North Oyster, Youbou, Malahat and Sahtlam have been working together to update their work to discover new ways to find good people for their fire departments.

“What we’ve found in our communities is that we’re more rural in nature and we don’t have the numbers behind us in population like Duncan and North Cowichan,” he said. “We believe we have to create the awareness that yes, you do have a fire department, yes your fire department is volunteer, yes we do need people. A lot of people are busy in their lives and they continue on with their lives and not even give the fire department a thought.”

That is, until they need them.

Thus, the firefighters continue to work to create awareness.

“Over the past years we’re starting to see an improvement of support to our fire departments to the public which allows us to increase the right number of people to join our teams,” de Jong said, and in turn, he added, it allows the departments to better assist their communities.

Helping one another has proved successful for all five halls.

“Over the past three years we’ve had a collaborative working group to ensure successful recruiting and retention of volunteer firefighters within the Valley,” de Jong told the board. “We are not aware of any other jurisdiction in this province that has collaborated on this scale as we are right now.”

Those involved overhauled and modernized their recruiting systems in an effort to reach more people.

“We needed to stay current and fresh in our recruiting efforts to adapt to the ever-changing society needs,” he said. “Our old way of recruiting was not working as well as it used to.”

So, in September 2013 crews from the five rural halls got together and hosted a recruiting open house at the Sahtlam fire hall.

That event was repeated in 2014 at the Honeymoon Bay fire hall and will happen again this year at the Malahat fire hall coming up on Saturday, Oct. 3 between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

“Our goal remains clear and simple,” de Jong said. “We want to find the right people to join our fire departments. The right person wants the challenge of a big commitment to professional training, desires the satisfaction of working with and belonging to his or her community, and is capable of handling stressful emergency incidents.”

He said the fire departments are committed to providing the training, leadership and employment to achieve those goals.

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