Fire department on a volunteer hiring spree

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

The fire departments in Alberton, Chapple, Emo and La Vallee are looking for volunteers to fill positions.

Alberton and Emo are each looking to fill 10 positions, Chapple is looking to fill five and La Vallee is looking to fill nine.

Tyrell Griffith, fire chief for Alberton, Chapple, Emo and La Vallee, said this is an unusual number of vacancies, partly because volunteerism has been on a decline during the pandemic.

“It has been really evident that we need more people to join the team,” Griffith said, adding that volunteer hiring takes place twice a year.

“If you sign up with us, we are going to give you a foundation for how the fire department and how the fire scene operates. It is going to be a few weeks of doing bookwork,” Griffith said. “It’s going to be reading, assignments and a little bit of testing to provide a foundation of knowledge for what happens on any emergency scene.”

After that, new recruits are partnered with experienced and seasoned firefighters to get hands-on practical skills.

This stage will last for about two months before the culminating skills camp, where new volunteers bring all of those skills that they have been working on together and do a two-day setup.

“They will be able to work as a team and actually be brought into real emergency scenarios – and get an understanding on how to apply all of those skills in a team atmosphere,” Griffith said.

There are no requirements to be trained as a volunteer firefighter, as long as you are 18 years of age or older. The only thing required is a willingness to train, to help out and to work in the community, Griffith said.

“We’ll provide anybody that signs up and goes through the theory and skills components for the first couple of months,” Griffith said. “We’ll give them any further education, like First Aid, scene safety and any other components that also transfer over to the private sector that everybody comes to us from.”

Griffith said it will be time consuming if the volunteers have no experience with the emergency sector, especially as they tackle the assignment part of the training.

After that, volunteers are expected to make themselves available on Thursday nights for at least a month and to respond to any calls as they are available. If a volunteer follows through the certification, they could apply to become an actual firefighter. Griffith said several members at the fire department started out as volunteers.

And, it can lead to other employment, as well.

“There are lots of other opportunities, like jobs with safety companies around, that specialize in providing fire safety training to different organizations,” he added.

Griffith said a misconception about the role is that firefighters are all dressed in turnout gear and prepared to enter a burning structure – which is not accurate. He said there are other crucial parts when it comes to emergency response.

“Not everybody has to be of that mentality or that desire to go into a burning structure as TV and movies like to portray,” he said.

Griffith said they have volunteers with diverse backgrounds in the construction industry, small engines, heavy equipment mechanics and truck drivers.

“There’s no other feeling that compares to being able to make a difference in a scenario or a situation where a team was able to stop or limit the amount of damage that happened,” Griffith said.

Those looking for more information on volunteering can reach out to Emo, Lavallee, Chapple or Alberton municipal offices, or to the ACEL via their Facebook page.