Looking for people willing to answer the call, the Wellesley Fire Department is recruiting new volunteers – well, paid on-call firefighters – to join its ranks, holding an information session March 12.
The job is tough and can be demanding on a person’s time, but it’s also an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the community, says township fire chief Paul Redman.
“People put their roots in,” he said. “Just historically, for years and years the volunteer fire departments have always been the backbones of these small communities and everybody knows somebody – one of your neighbours or someone in your family – on the department. I can’t say enough about that: it’s a community thing.”
Although these new recruits wouldn’t be considered volunteers today, perhaps the biggest prerequisite for the job is still a strong dedication to the community. If an applicant is physically fit and willing to make the time commitment, then he or she may qualify, as no prior experience or training is required for the job.
“We’re going to be training everybody from scratch regardless of what kind of experience they have,” said Redman. “And then anybody that has training, it’s even better. So if we have people that are currently firefighters or paramedics or police officers that’s great, or if they’ve taken the firefighting course or a paramedic course or even nursing and that sort of thing is also beneficial.”
But even those with experience in hands-on professions can find a new use for their skills.
“We look at trades, trades are always good to have: mechanics, plumbers, gasfitters, any kind of construction or heavy machinery experience is always a good thing to have as well,” he added.
Close proximity to a fire station in the township is a plus, especially in Linwood and St. Clements, where Redman says firefighters are needed the most. But commitment is still key as recruits will need to be able to put in the hours, especially for the first few months of training.
“When they’re in the recruit phase it’s a pretty heavy schedule,” he explained. “The recruits are probably putting in five to eight hours a week, maybe. We’re going to have a bunch of the recruits that just finished at our open house so [once the] presentation’s done [people] can talk to them. We really want them to get a sense of what kind of commitment they’re making.”
Despite the hard work, the latest batch of firefighters to have gone through the training seem to be in high spirits.
“At this point you know we have a very engaged group and they all seem to love it, so I think they’ve got some pretty positive things to say. Nobody seems to be complaining yet,” said Redman.
After the recruit phase, which typically lasts eight to 10 months, the job calms down and falls into a more predictable routine. There’s the Monday practices that are typically every other week. They run for about two to four hours, and firefighters are expected to attend about 20 of them a year.
Besides the practices, there’s a fair amount of flexibility in job, with firefighters responding to the calls they are able to make. Still, it can be quite a demanding schedule, and not only for the firefighters but their families as well.
“The one thing that we always tell people during the open house is we encourage them to bring their spouses, family, let them know what they’re getting into,” said Redman. “That’s one of the biggest things especially if the candidate has a husband or a wife or kids. Because it is a commitment, and when the pager goes off at three o’clock in the morning, it wakes everybody in the house up not just the person going to the call.”
For those interested in learning more about the position and having their questions answered, the open house is on March 12 at the St. Clements Community Centre, starting at 7 p.m.