A recruitment and information night held by the Lake Country Fire Department last week put the spotlight on one of the main issues facing the department, which relies on paid-on call members, firefighters who are paid when they respond to a fire but who are much like volunteers, with separate careers and families.
When a page goes out calling firefighters to the scene of an emergency, the members that can respond do, rushing to the fire hall and responding to the call as the trucks roll from one of the three stations that make up the Lake Country Department: Winfield, Oyama and Carr’s Landing.
Of the 20 or so interested people that came out to the information session, the majority were in the Winfield stations’ immediate area, the one firehall that has enough paid-on call members.
“Most, if not all were interested in the Winfield station,” said assistant fire chief Brent Penner. “We are actively recruiting for the Oyama and Carr’s Landing stations. We found a couple real good applicants but what we really need is members for Oyama and Carr’s Landing.”
Winfield’s station is nearly full of firefighters with a complement of 26 members while Carr’s Landing has 10 members and Oyama 17, with both of the outlying halls looking for members. Many members also work during the day in either Vernon or Kelowna, meaning potential members who have some flexibility in their regular work shift and can be available during the day are also sought after.
“If a call comes in on an evening or a weekend we definitely have a lot of people who will leave the dinner table or get up in the middle of the night to answer a call,” explained Penner. “We can’t schedule when calls come in so even though we had 20 people come out to our recruitment drive, we have to be careful who we select. We don’t want to have everyone who is working Monday to Friday 9 to 5.”
That lack of bodies during the day came to fruition last week when two calls came in at the same time and Penner had only four paid-on call members respond. Luckily one of the calls was handled by an ambulance and the fire truck was able to re-route to the second call.
Penner said the Winfield station usually rolls on every call in the district, operating much like a main fire station, however it would be better to have more members available during the day and also in the two outlying stations, to deal with what is an ever-increasing number of calls.
Again this year, the Lake Country department has seen an increase in calls, despite the fact it was a relatively calm year when it came to forest fires.
“We’re growing quickly,” said Penner. “There is a lot of activity in Lake Country right now and all that activity equals more calls. Even with the lower risk of forest fires this year we will be busier again this year.”
If you want more information about becoming a paid-on call firefighter in Lake Country, contact the LCFD at 250-766-2327