Buckland Fire and Rescue is looking for a few good volunteers.
© Herald photo by Perry Bergson
Buckland Fire and Rescue Chief Jim Miller (left) and deputy chief Ward Howat pose by one of the department’s vehicles on Saturday night outside the Exhibition Centre in Prince Albert.
The rural fire department has put the word out that it is actively seeking new rural firefighters to provide fire services and other operations.
“I think we can say that every organization that relies on volunteers, they're suffering somewhat now, and especially in our rural fire service,” Buckland Fire Chief Jim Miller said.
“They haven’t really probably done a study, but if you did it, the average age is … fairly old. So if you look at it in the (next) five and 10-year periods … a large portion of those firefighters are going to be retired, basically, so someone needs to replace them.”
Miller said his department currently has 30 firefighters, of whom he described 20 as “very committed” and 10 as “not quite as committed.”
Prospective rural firefighters must be at least 18 years old -- ideally living within 30 kilometres or so of the fire hall -- and committed to their duties.
“The people on the radio are on call -- unless they’re at work or on holidays -- pretty much 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Miller said. “We can get a call anywhere from 2 o’clock in the afternoon to 2 at night.”
The chief noted, however, that rural firefighters still prioritize their day jobs and family obligations.
“You have to put your family first and you have to put your work first, because if you don’t do that you’re not going to be there anyway,” Miller said.
He estimated that the number of calls his department receives in a normal year averages out to one call every third day.
We’re short of people because not everyone wants to do it or can do it. Jim Miller
“I don’t think people realize how much of a commitment it is,” he added. “We went out on Christmas Eve -- we had a fire, 10:30 at night. We’ve been out at New Year’s Day -- an accident where there was three cars, one person killed on it.
“So there are a lot of times you do spend away from your family … You do without a lot of sleep … It’s not for everyone. That’s one of the problems. We’re short of people because not everyone wants to do it or can do it.”
Yet Miller noted that volunteering with the rural fire department can also impart a range of skills -- singling out teamwork and working under direction as well as valuable experience for young workers -- while allowing the firefighters to help out their communities and stay in shape.
Aside from fire suppression, Buckland Fire and Rescue specializes in a range of technical rescue operations such as vehicle extrication, farm rescue, trench rescue, building collapse and search and rescue.
Rural firefighters train every Tuesday, along with certified training on three or four weekends per year. The department also holds different social events each year in addition to their annual Surf and Turf fundraiser.
Anyone interested in volunteering with Buckland Fire and Rescue should contact Miller at 306-763-2285 or deputy chief Ward Howat at 306-763-1233.