The Terrace fire department has 20 active volunteers, and with their recruitment drive coming up this spring, a committee has been formed to help retain and encourage new members to join.
The committee is comprised of volunteer firefighters along with fire chief John Klie. Together, they’re taking a look at a few ways of interacting with the community, from handing out flyers to answering questions about the volunteer process.
“Not only to get people to show up, but to get them to stick around,” says committee member and volunteer firefighter Kyle Krupop.
“You can get a lot of people interested, but after they start the training, they realize it’s a lot more than they anticipated. But we’re trying to get them to stick it out and stay with us for a few years, and potentially make a career out of it.”
The department is short about 10 volunteers because people have moved on or retired. Many with 25 to 30 years of experience have quit, leaving a newer department with higher training requirements.
Their level of service was raised to interior training levels last year, which required a more intense commitment over the first year to get new recruits up to speed. With the program, firefighters in Terrace are now trained in fire prevention, suppression, hazard mitigation, rescue and pre-hospital care.
Training for both interior and exterior fires now takes place 15 or 16 weekends throughout the year, with Tuesday training once a week and summer vacation off. Volunteers are also required to be available to respond to 50 per cent of the emergency calls put out by the department.
Recognizing this can be a large commitment for those with a family or a full-time job, the department is looking at ways of managing that for future recruits.
“Rather than going every weekend, we’re trying to give them weekends off so it spreads it out a little bit,” says fire chief John Klie.
Every current career member at the department was once a volunteer, Klie says, and joining the organization provides high-quality training for those looking to become a full-time firefighter.
The commitment is also there to ensure the safety of those who join the department, says deputy fire chief Dave Jephson.
“It’s a different standard, it’s a different requirement. It’s not a haphazard, ‘come in and have a coffee today’ [job]. Their lives are in jeopardy every time they come to one of our calls, and it’s our responsibility to make sure they can go home at night and say hi to their families. That’s why the commitment is there,” he says.
He stresses that while it is a difficult and involved position, it is an incredibly rewarding one.
“It’s a phenomenal organization, it’s a phenomenal comradery,” Jephson says. “There’s no better commitment to your community than to join an organization to serve the citizens of Terrace.”
Krupop says that ever since he joined two years ago, he’s had a worthwhile experience serving in the department.
“Training never stops but the initial big hump will be over after the year. It’s a big initial climb but once you’re on the plateau, you’re with everyone else,” he says.
“It’s been meeting a lot of awesome people, making new friends and being apart of something bigger than yourself.”
The recruitment drive kicks off Jan. 8 with an open house at the fire hall from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Deadline for applications is Jan. 14.
*The original version of this story stated training took place every weekend for a year, when it is staggered for 15 to 16 weekends through the spring and fall for interior and exterior training.