Always room for new firefighters

February 20, 2024, 11:03 am
Ryan Kiedrowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Moosomin Fire Department last year.

If you ask any fire department around, they’ll tell you the same thing: we’ll never turn away someone with a desire to become a volunteer firefighter. These days, it’s a little more challenging than just showing up. Recently imposed standards have meant new volunteer firefighters need proper training - something that ensures safety for both new recruits and the team they work with, but can be intimidating for those curious on making a commitment.

“People want to get involved with a department. You do it because you enjoy it. A lot of the stuff you see and end up attending sometimes isn’t enjoyable by any means, but it’s a commitment. You do it because you enjoy doing it,” said Redvers Fire Chief Brad Hutton. “By the time you get six or eight of those courses under your belt, you’ve got quite a bit of money committed between the course cost, and then we do pay a bit; the volunteers get a bit of a paycheque for taking the courses and responding to calls as well.”

As for a time commitment, Hutton says his department meets once a month with a couple training sessions every month as well. A full complement on the Redvers Fire Department is set at 24, but Hutton has room for at least half a dozen new recruits.

“It’s not like it used to be, people used to jump up and down. It’s a little more slower to get them in right now. It does boil down to a bit of the standards and stuff that have come down the pipes with the fire service,” Hutton said. “The intention is in the right direction, the standards and regulations are definitely to protect beyond the fireman side for health and safety. So it ties up more time and I think people just get scared away.”

Currently, the Redvers crew is made up of dedicated folks from in and around town. There are 10 firefighters right in Redvers, making for a very quick response time, and a good portion of firefighters with 20 to 35 years of service - making for a fine leadership team for younger members.

“At the end of the day, we end up with a real good team at every call,” said Hutton. “It’s not always easy work, so you got some young guys that are ambitious and tough. It’s strenuous work in a lot of cases, so it can be a workout for the day.”

As with many rural fire departments, Redvers responds to a variety of calls - structure fires, motor vehicle collisions, water rescue, and grass fires to name a few.

“Harvest definitely brings quite a few extra calls, round balers seem to be famous for starting fires, and just bearings on combines,” Hutton said. “We actually went to two combines this year and they both got out relatively easy and really quick, but their wiring harnesses rubbed through and shorted out.”

Some of the training is simply being prepared for incidents that have a likelihood of occurring such as grain bin entrapment.

“We haven’t actually had any grain entrapment rescues, but we’ve got all the equipment and stuff to do it so we’re trained with it,” explained Hutton. Naturally, such training is vital in a farming area and beneficial when providing mutual aid to neighbouring fire departments on larger calls.

Every fire department has a wish list and at the top of those notes, a new truck can usually be found. Redvers has a 2006 frontline unit, but with regulations saying such items can’t be more than 20 years old, it’s soon time to go shopping.

“We’re going to start the wheels turning here this year on getting one of them ordered,” Hutton said. “As far as rescue equipment, we got a bunch of TREX (Transportation Rescue Extrication Program through the provincial government) stuff. So we did get approximately $70,000 worth of new electric jaws and spreaders and then got a bunch of struts and airbag systems with it as well. So we’ve panned out pretty good that way.”

Cost factors can make for a difficult sales pitch, especially when an ‘almost new’ truck can easily start at $800,000.

“You try to get money out of Councils and RMs to put down on a truck that you’re not gonna see for a year and a half. It’s not so easy either,” Hutton said.

But when those tones go off and it’s your loved one or home the Redvers Fire Department is going to save, perspective on those price tags shift.