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Terrace fire dept. down to no volunteers due to increased training requirements

The volunteer count dropped from 10 in February 2024 to none in June 2024
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Terrace Fire Department saw a sharp decline in volunteers from 10 in February 2024 to none in June 2024

The Terrace Fire Department has lost all its volunteers following the introduction of increased provincial safety and training requirements.

More and more people have been withdrawing from the paid on-call program of the fire department due to an up-scaled training process eventually leading to a total lack of volunteers as of Jun 6, 2024.

“While the fire department still has an active paid-on-call program, we currently have no active paid-on-call firefighters on our roster,” fire chief Chad Cooper told The Terrace Standard.

The department’s goal is to maintain a roster of 15 active paid on-call firefighters, a count the chief hopes to achieve by conducting open houses and recruiting at venues such as the farmers market.

Cooper attributes the withdrawal of volunteers to minimum training standards now set by the British Columbia Office of the Fire Commissioner and increased WorkSafe BC safety requirements to ensure firefighters are adequately trained.

“Due to the increased requirements and training demands, fire departments across British Columbia are struggling to recruit and retain paid on-call firefighters,” he added.

A new paid on-call firefighter without any prior experience requires approximately 400 hours of training spread over weekends which usually takes about a year and a half to complete. The paid on-call firefighters cannot operate or attend incidents unless they have completed the recruit training program of 400 hours.

“This process is neither easy nor quick, and it takes time before new recruits can bolster our incident operations. Upon completion, these paid on-call firefighters are fully certified,” Cooper said.

Recently, the fire department hired two firefighters bringing the total count of paid full-time firefighters to 12. They are distributed across four shifts.

“We maintain a staffing level of two full-time firefighters on duty 24/7,” Cooper said. “For major emergency incidents or concurrent emergencies, we rely on off-duty full-time firefighters and paid on-call firefighters to support the on-duty personnel.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a U.S.-based international nonprofit organization, at least 15 firefighters must be sent for an initial alarm of low hazard, 28 firefighters for a medium hazard alarm and 43 for a high hazard alarm.

Cooper’s 2024 budget proposal of shifting to a paid on-call firefighter status was based on attracting more people to what had become a diminishing number of volunteers. There were 10 volunteers in February.

The paid on-call volunteer program was budgeted at $50,000 annually representing a tax increase of 0.27 per cent for city property owners. The program pays $25 an hour when called out to an emergency and $22 an hour to attend weekly training sessions.

There is an agreement between the Terrace Fire Department and the Thornhill Volunteer Fire Department to assist each other at fires and other emergencies when necessary.

 



Prabhnoor Kaur

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