Quesnel Volunteer Fire Department recruits practise dousing a vehicle fire during training. Jeremy Gutoski photo

Record number of recruits join Quesnel Fire Department

Fire chief says this year’s applications were the most he’s seen in 12 years

The Quesnel Volunteer Fire Department has been shored up this year with an influx of new recruits.

Nine men and women signed up to volunteer for the department, and recently completed their basic training.

Nine is a record for the department in recent years, says fire chief Sylvain Gauthier.

“Normally we average maybe four to five every two years. This year, we were lucky because we had lots of people applying over the last 12 months,” he says.

Gauthier says he actually had a total of 13 apply, but some didn’t respond when it was time to begin training.

The department didn’t do a particular membership drive to achieve these numbers, says Gauthier, but he thinks last year’s wildfires could have prompted more people to take an interest.

“It’s just word of mouth. Some [new recruits] are from the mills and they are working with some of our members, so they were encouraged to apply.

“Also maybe with all the issues with forest fires last summer, that could have had a bearing on it.”

The fire chief says it can be difficult to bring in just a few new recruits at a time, so the extra bodies were welcome.

“If we only have two people sign up for one year, it’s hard to do a course. When it’s time for practice, we need to make sure there’s enough to form a group,” he explains.

That wasn’t a problem this year.

Tyler Bartels, Jordan Cook, Michael Dobson, Hayden Fletcher, Jeremy Gutoski, Elicia Hadley, Chad Neadow, Everett Raynor and Mike Rempel recently completed their first 40 to 50 hours of training. They’ll now be on probation for around six months, able to perform some, but not all, tasks at a fire, until they are gradually brought up to speed on all skills required.

The recruits say the training has been valuable, involving everything from practice entering a burning building and learning hose control to hooking up to hydrants. They were also tested on tree types, to be able to understand how a fire will react with different species during a wildfire.

“I think the training is ongoing, we’re going to continue learning. But it’s been good,” says Cook, who works at Cariboo Pulp & Paper. “[The basic training] is only a toe-dip into it all.”

Cook says he was motivated to join the department after being part of the fire crew at work.

“I wanted to learn some new skills, and participate in a way that you don’t normally get to. Growing up here, you get to throw a little bit back,” he says.

Hadley, the lone female recruit, says she liked the idea of being helpful to the community and finding motivation to keep herself fit and active.

She says being the only woman hasn’t fazed her.

“It’s not that bad. I’ve been in lots of situations where I’ve been surrounded by all men. I can take it, I’ve got tough skin!”

With the new members, Gauthier says the department now has about 44 volunteers, plus four full-time, paid members. Firefighters respond to either the downtown or the Red Bluff fire hall, depending where they live. The West Quesnel fire hall is currently used only to store a ladder truck, as there aren’t enough members in the area to respond to the hall. The four or five members who live on the westside now respond downtown.

Gauthier says the decision to bring in a new member is based partly on interest, but the department also vets candidates for suitability.

“We look at their applications and bring them in and talk to make sure they are the right fit. We want to make sure we have the right poeple for the job; we can’t have pepole who might have issues with confinement or other things like that. We just talk to them and ask, ‘Are you ready to go inside a burning building? Do you have issues with total darkess, putting a mask over your face?” he explains.

He also says retaining new members can be tricky. The fire department asks that members attend fire practice each week and that they respond to 10 per cent of the calls in a given month.

“Normally within the first two years, we probably lose 50 per cent of recruits. It’s a time commitment,” says Gauthier.

But this year’s nine recruits seem set to stay for the time being. When asked if they planned to stay on after training, many of the heads in the room were visible nodding enthusiastically.

As the region heads into fire season, Quesnel is lucky to have so many dedicated volunteers.



editor@quesnelobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

SAS hosts second annual Secret Santa for Seniors

Last year 40 seniors received gifts through the program

Large attendance for avalanche awareness seminar a good sign of shift in back-country culture

Full Throttle Motorsports offers free education for snowmobilers looking to stay safe this winter

Column: winter water for livestock – challenges and solutions

David Zirnhelt discusses ways to keep the cows hydrated when the temperature reaches below zero

Quesnel figure skater improving in leaps and spins

Mitchell Dunn, 13, finished second in Juvenile Men category this season

Editorial: change we can’t ignore

Quesnel’s forestry industry must change in order to remain viable in our community

Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders from the Pacific island nations on Saturday during the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea

Price makes 36 saves as Habs edge Canucks 3-2

Late goal lifts Montreal past Vancouver

BC Minister of Agriculture loses stepson to accidental overdose

Lana Popham announces death of her 23-year-old stepson, Dan Sealey

Canadian military’s template for perfect recruits outdated: Vance

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff says that the military has to change because the very nature of warfare is changing, particularly when it comes to cyber-warfare

‘Toxic’ chosen as the Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries

Other top contenders for 2018 include ‘gaslighting’ and ‘techlash’

RCMP bust illegal B.C. cannabis lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

Canada defeats Germany 29-10 in repechage, moves step closer to Rugby World Cup

Hong Kong needs a bonus-point win over Canada — scoring four or more tries — while denying the Canadians a bonus point

Avalanche Canada in desperate need of funding

The organization provides avalanche forecasting for an area larger than the United Kingdom

5 B.C. cities break temperature records

Parts of B.C. remain warm, at 10 C, while others feeling chilly

Most Read