CL fire department offers health benefits to entice new recruits
Christina Lake Fire and Rescue is actively seeking more volunteer firefighters.
“We are down five members and are looking to fill those positions,” said fire chief Ken Gresley-Jones. “A lot of those people have moved on. A lot of them have moved away or work out of town and aren’t able to volunteer.”
The fire department has a capacity for 25 members but currently only has 20 volunteers. While they are able to easily put out a fire if all the members show up, it’s hard to know how many will be available in an emergency.
“We burned a house down the other day (as part of their training). We are able to put out a fire – no problem. We are ‘ok’ with what we have,” said Gresley-Jones, noting full capacity is ideal.
The controlled burns that firefighters do as part of their training, is required. Volunteers know ahead of time when they will be training and clear their schedule – something which is impossible to plan for in an emergency situation. With many volunteers either doing shift work or working in Grand Forks, it’s quite possible they would be shorthanded when it really mattered.
“That’s a problem every community with a volunteer fire department faces,” notes Gresley-Jones.
Christina Lake firefighters definitely fall into the volunteer department. They only get paid when they attend a fire and the going rate is $18 per fire.
“They get $18 if they are there for five hours or five minutes,” said Gresley-Jones.
They don’t even take home the full $18 because firefighters have opted to give $8 from each fire back to the community.
“We support a variety of community organizations, so really they get $10 in their pocket,” explained Gresley-Jones.
In order to sweeten the deal, Christina Lake Fire and Rescue is offering volunteers a little more incentive. They are giving extended medical and dental benefits to all volunteers, and a life insurance plan.
The new plan is starting July 1 and offers $10,000 in life insurance and 80 per cent coverage for dental work and medications.
“It’s a new method of recruiting and retaining volunteers,” said Gresley-Jones. “We are one of the first fire departments doing this in BC.”
According to Gresley-Jones, they came up with the idea when they were brainstorming how to get new recruits. For many volunteers, benefits are the perfect incentive. Especially if they are self-employed or aren’t able to get on a plan through their work.
Anyone interested in signing up can contact Gresley-Jones at 250-447-6197 or 250-666-0911. The requirements are not extensive. Volunteers need to be at least 19, reasonable fit – although no test is required – and able to volunteer for training. The fire department practices once a week on Wednesday evenings for a couple of hours. New volunteers will need to get their first responder first aid training and then keep it up-to-date by renewing it once every three years.
“We try and keep it fun and interesting,” said Gresley-Jones. “My ideal volunteer is a young person that is ready for excitement, action and adventure.”
Gresley-Jones is also at the fire hall by 8:30 a.m. and spends most of the morning there.
“If my truck is outside, I’m there,” he said.