Town calls for volunteer firefighters

Duane Hicks

The town is looking for more volunteer firefighters to apply to the Fort Frances Fire and Rescue Service.
Fire Chief Frank Sheppard said the fire department has lost several volunteer firefighters and needs to bolster its ranks.
“There’s sort of a running list,” he explained. “A certain number of people get into it and discover it isn’t what they thought it was, and fall off.
“We normally keep a complement of 20 and right now we’re down to 15, so it’s time to refill the ranks a little bit.
“We’ll probably hire a few extra if we can and then keep them on an active list just to sort of compensate,” added Chief Sheppard.
“Obviously, we’ve lost a few due to the changes at the mill. That’s had an effect on us.”
The duties of a volunteer firefighter range from fighting fires, fire ground support, and team-oriented training to public relations, fire safety education, and emergency scene safety.
“It’s a good opportunity for people to do some work to be involved within the community,” Chief Sheppard said.
“I like to think of it as a pretty positive profile position; that whether you’re here as a career or part-time or volunteer firefighter, there’s some benefit to the community,” he added.
Volunteer firefighters receive an hourly rate for all emergency calls, training, and other authorized activities.
Chief Sheppard stressed the job does involve training and time commitment.
“The first year is pretty busy for commitment,” he conceded. “They probably need to put in almost a 100 hours the first year.
“Beyond that, it is regular training that works out to 40-50 hours on an annualized basis,” Chief Sheppard continued.
“That is all paid training, of course.”
Training is on weekends and evenings, but some of the
classroom work now can be done online.
“The practical work obviously has to take place here [at the fire hall] or at the training site,” noted Chief Sheppard.
But he added the fire service is going to an online system where a lot of the didactic work—the theory work—can be done outside of training hours at the individual’s convenience.
Once they’re ready for action, volunteer firefighters are divided into, and operate in, four platoons. These teams are on-call for fires and other emergencies.
“We try to encourage people to make about half the calls,” said Chief Sheppard.
“But if people have job commitments and things like that, it isn’t that they have an absolute expectation to leave their job or to leave a family commitment to respond to a fire,” he stressed.
“That’s why we carry a little larger complement than we would otherwise.”
The town is an equal opportunity employer, and encourages women as well as men to apply to be a volunteer firefighter.
Chief Sheppard said there is some physical expectation from the job, but it normally is within the capacity of most average healthy people to be able to do.
“Obviously, if you’re not physically fit to some level, you’re going to struggle with it,” he remarked.
The application deadline is this Monday (March 11) at 4:30 p.m.
A complete job description, application forms, and application instructions are available at the Civic Centre or on the town’s website at www.fort-frances.com