CARP – The allure of becoming a volunteer firefighter brought 13 community members to an information session hosted by Station 64 on Tuesday, July 3.
Every year, the Ottawa Fire Services (OFS) is actively recruiting. The OFS still uses volunteer firefighters in the rural parts of the city, and District 6 Sector Chief Jim Andrews says the department looks to hire about 50 new members each year. In the rural area of West Carleton, the active volunteer class for 2018 sits at 16.
But one look at the station board, and you can see there are positions that need to be filled. The OFS needs recruits for all six of its western stations – Station 61, 62, 63, 64, 66 and 45 (Carp, Kinburn, Fitzroy Harbour, Constance Bay, Dunrobin and Kanata North). Thirteen area residents dropped by the Carp fire station (Station 64) to see if volunteer firefighting was right for them.
“Across Canada, recruitment is becoming a big issue,” Andrews told West Carleton Online. “People are busy and there is a time commitment.”
Although it is termed volunteer, members are paid for the time they work.
“We’re covering a big district and we get some big calls,” Andrews said.
Population wise, Ottawa is smaller than most of the other big Canadian cities, but geographically, it is much larger than most of those other cities.
The 13 potential applicants that came out varied in ages from as young as 17 to those currently enjoying middle age. There were two women and 11 men interested in learning more.
Andrews says the OFS is actively looking to increase female enrollment. Andrews, who is a board member on the Fire Service Women Ontario advocacy group is working hard to bring more women in to the force. He was happy with the variety and number of interested potential applicants.
“I was pleased,” he said. “We have a lot of applicants in already. They already know what they’re in for, so many of those people aren’t here tonight.”
Training Officer Gary Kelleher told attendees what they can expect as a volunteer firefighter of the OFS.
“The skill set coming to you, you will be able to use the rest of your life,” he said. “The training is challenging. It is going to test you physically and mentally. You will make bonds with your colleagues that will last the rest of your life. But there is a time commitment and you won’t get rich being a volunteer firefighter.”
That time commitment mostly involves training.
“Once you get trained, we keep you trained,” he told his captive audience. “We always train, train, train, so when that call comes in, you are ready to go.”
Volunteer firefighters get paid twice a year, once as summer begins and once before Christmas. They also receive their equipment for free and get free training in skills that would cost much more if they did it on their own, such as obtaining a heavy truck drivers’ license.
“There are expectations,” Andrews added. “All the work has to be completed. It has to. We want to make sure you are safe and functionable. You are going to go to some messed up events.”
Andrews also pointed out volunteer firefighters are always on duty.
“The community is always appreciative of your help,” he said. “Your neighbours are going to find out very quickly you’re a firefighter. You represent the OFS 24/7, 365 days a year.”
Captain Scott Langstaff also had some words for the potential recruits.
“It’s an amazing learning experience,” he said. “We have a high call volume – around 200 calls a year. Actual fires are low though.”
Interested candidates did not need to attend the information session to apply. The deadline for applications is July. For more information on applying, click here.