Algonquin Highlands fire chief Michael French is close to sounding the alarm, with his department in desperate need of recruiting several new volunteer firefighters.
French said the service is at least 12 members short of a full complement, with four new firefighters required to serve stations in Oxtongue Lake, Dorset and Stanhope.
“Just attrition, I suppose, is why we’re down,” French said. “Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of job opportunities keeping people in this area right now. Usually, we like to carry a complement of 50, but we’re quite a way short of that.”
Volunteer firefighters are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, French said. And, despite being labelled as volunteers, members are compensated for their service. New recruits are paid $20.51 an hour. They also receive complimentary volunteer firefighters’ insurance, meaning if they are hurt on or off duty, they will receive benefits.
Full training is provided, so interested candidates aren’t required to have any experience.
“The main thing we’re looking for in someone is commitment and a willingness to put in the time. Being a volunteer firefighter is a major undertaking. It’s a second job,” Shelly said. “The term ‘volunteer’ really is a thing of the past. You will be paid, and there is an expectation that recruits will attend all training sessions… It takes real dedication to become a successful firefighter.”
French said existing members will get together to train one night per week. New recruits that don’t have any firefighting experience can expect to log approximately 150 hours of training, all paid, before they can be considered qualified.
Training for new recruits will begin in January and typically takes place on weekends.
“We’re putting out the call now and trying to bring people on in the fall to see if they like the position, then that gives them time to get to know the other firefighters and learn about our practices,” French said. “The training they get and certificates they receive can then act as a stepping stone if the recruits ever want to look into going full-time. We find that once someone gets a taste for this, they start to love it and want to do it more and more. So, it could definitely open up a door to a whole new career.”
Volunteer firefighters in Algonquin Highlands will be expected to carry out the same jobs as full-time firefighters in places like Toronto, French confirmed. “They get the same training, so, in essence, they will be no different than a regular firefighter.”
To apply, visit algonquinhighlands.ca and search ‘AHFS firefighter recruitment’. To learn more, contact French at firstname.lastname@example.org.