Starting Monday, Feb. 8, team oriented Tofitians are invited to submit applications to join the prestigious Tofino Volunteer Fire Department.
Currently boasting a squad of 24 dedicated volunteer firefighters, Tofino Fire Chief John Gilmour is hoping to max his crew out with 6 new recruits.
“You have to live in town and have been here for one year. You have to be a good upstanding citizen, physically fit, and trades people are always great to have,” said Gilmour.
“The most physical enduring activity that we do and also one of the most important things that we do on the fire ground is rescue. Being able to pull somebody that’s 230-300 lbs. with full gear on is the biggest test.”
As a group, Gilmour and five high ranking volunteer fire officers review applications before deciding who makes the final cut. He said they tend to go in on unique people that really want to challenge themselves.
“There are some scenarios that we’d put you in that you’d definitely never be in if you didn’t join the fire service. It’s an exciting thing to do,” he said.
New recruits undergo 6 months of basic training that includes getting used to functioning with a Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).
“We do a lot of training with breathing on air; building up and getting people comfortable. There’s a lot of panic that can happen when you can’t see anything in smoked filled rooms,” said Gilmour.
In addition to having access to a private gym and tax incentives, Gilmour said the main reason people join the Fire Department is the camaraderie.
Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Chief Ted Eeftink, who has been volunteering at the Ukee department for 22 years and counting – agrees wholeheartedly.
“People sign up because of the camaraderie in the department and we do a lot of fun things,” said Eeftink.
“You learn to be a level 2 firefighter, you learn your first responders, road rescue stuff… That’s kind of fun stuff because we get to cut cars up and just get to know all the equipment. It could lead on to a career for somebody if they wanted to keep pursuing that.”
Eeftink also points out that recognition needs to be given to the employers of volunteer firefighters.
“To become a member you have to first find out if your employer will let you take the time off if there is a call. Employers are a big part of this too. We have to give them a lot of credit for letting you as a volunteer take the time off,” he said.
The Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Department is currently at full capacity with 22 members, but Eeftink is working alongside Karla Robison at the District of Ucluelet to revamp one of the bays in the station in order to accommodate more people.
“We’re just trying to get caught up, but in the fall definitely,” said Eeftink of his plans to recruit new members into the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Department.