Town calling for more volunteer firefighters

FORT FRANCES—While their primary duty is to put out fires, being a volunteer firefighter is about more than battling blazes.
That’s the message Fire Chief Gerry Armstrong is trying to get out as the town calls for more volunteer firefighters to apply to the Fort Frances Fire and Rescue Service.
“The idea behind this recruitment drive is to enhance our volunteer complement, as well as give opportunity for people to understand that there’s more to the volunteer fire service than fighting fires,” he noted.
“Hopefully, we can attract people with different life skills,” added Chief Armstrong.
“Ultimately, being involved in the fire service, especially with volunteers, becomes very much about what you have to offer as a person as opposed to having specific skills related to emergency response.
“Definitely, we need some volunteers that are good front-line firefighters—there’s no question we depend on these people,” he stressed. “We’re a composite department and we have a limited number full-time staff.
“We’re very much dependent on volunteers for support on the fire ground and other activities,” he noted. “But they’ll also have the opportunity to get involved in some of the public awareness and education along with the full-time people.”
Chief Armstrong noted volunteer support roles could range from fire safety promotion to emergency response to helping out during a natural disaster.
“The public is probably aware that there has been a greatly-reduced number of fires in the past decade,” he remarked.
“Fort Frances Fire and Rescue offers a large number of different kinds of services, and a very small portion of that is actually fighting fires, even though that’s our primary role,” he stressed.
“We do medical assists, we do medical responses, we do public assists in certain areas, we do emergency management functions.
“There’s a whole gamut of different functions and responsibilities we have here, but fire is actually becoming a very small part of what we respond to,” added Chief Armstrong.
“Most people would never understand that until they come and experience that with us.”
Chief Armstrong said the force currently has a complement of 18 volunteer firefighters, but he would like to see that number rise to 23 or 24.
“Being volunteers, you can’t ask these people to come out every time we need them,” he noted. “So if we run a slightly higher complement, we get a few more volunteers out at different intervals.
“It gives us more of a cushion so if that unfortunate big emergency or big blaze does happen, we have those extra people to support us and relieve us.”
Chief Armstrong said those interested in joining the volunteer firefighting force shouldn’t be intimidated by the notion of countless hours of training—a preconception that’s “not necessarily realistic.”
“If you’re going to be a career firefighter, there’s a great deal of training that goes along with that,” he conceded. “The volunteer role here is more of a support role.
“So, yes, there is a requirement for training, there is mandatory training. But there’s not hundreds and hundreds hours of it.
“We’re very accommodating in that regard,” he stressed. “In other words, we’ll go out of our way to hold training sessions when it’s most convenient for volunteers.
“We have to do that or we would never have volunteers.”
Chief Armstrong said he highly encourages anyone interested in being a volunteer firefighter to pick up an application and at least inquire about the job.
“If they think they may have an interest, we would like them to come and give it a try,” he explained. “There may be a place in the department, a role here, that they’ll really pick up on and enjoy most.
“And it may not be necessarily holding the hose line and battling the blaze.
“All those roles are there. It’s a matter of getting people here, in the door, and trained initially to take on some of those sorts of things,” he continued.
Chief Armstrong noted the town is an equal opportunity employer, and he encourages women as well as men to apply to be a volunteer firefighter.
The application deadline is this Wednesday (March 7) at 4:30 p.m.
Complete job descriptions, application forms, and application instructions are available at the Civic Centre or on the town’s website at