Volunteer firefighters wanted

The Mount Lorne Volunteer Fire Department is looking for fresh blood. Only four volunteers attended the last training session. And their average age was around 60.

The Mount Lorne Volunteer Fire Department is looking for fresh blood.

Only four volunteers attended the last training session.

And their average age was around 60.

If a fifth regular volunteer had not been sick, the combined age of the “old, tired, true and trusted crew” would have been 308 years, according to the department’s newsletter.

Nearly as old as the volunteers is the station’s water tanker trunk, which served as a water supply truck in the 1970s.

But despite all this, Mount Lorne is “one of the top fire departments in the territory,” according to Deputy Fire Marshall Kevin Taylor.

“It’s a great department, and the volunteers that they have are very well trained, but they are struggling to try to get new volunteers, like everyone else.”

The Yukon has 17 volunteer fire departments, which cover nearly every community in the territory.

There are some communities that are really struggling to find active volunteers and this is a major concern, said Taylor.

But usually there is a nearby community with a working fire department that can help during an emergency.

Usually, each department has about eight to 10 volunteers, but Taylor would prefer if the numbers were closer to 15.

“Fifteen is a good number that we could use for almost all responses,” he said.

“But in a community of 42 people, it’s really hard to find 15 to be able to create a fire department.”

And when you get into some of the smaller, outlying communities many people already have a lot on their plate.

“A lot of them are doing emergency medical, search and rescue, and firefighting,” said Taylor.

“So it comes to a point where there may be burnout.”

The last big boost to the Mount Lorne Fire Department’s ranks came six years ago after a fire in the Robinson Subdivision, said volunteer Peter Percival.

Residents were forced to evacuate and the fire nearly got out of control.

Eight people volunteered shortly thereafter.

“People kind of take things for granted if there are no fires,” said Percival, who sits on the department’s executive.

“And people move out.”

There were three women in the department who were all very good and well trained but there is now only one left, said Percival.

The other two had growing families and moved into town to be closer to school and work.

All that grey hair in the department could be blamed on changing demographics, but there are still some younger people living in the area.

“You don’t need to be that young,” said Percival.

“Anybody who came in at 45 would greatly reduce the average age.”

There are two reasons why people get involved in the department, said Percival.

Either they’re established in the community and want to protect their assets.

Or, as is often the case with younger volunteers, they use it as a stepping-stone to a future career.

Deputy fire marshall Kevin Taylor began volunteering when he was 28 years old.

“I started just as a way to give back to the community,” said Taylor.

“But I found that I liked it more and more – it sort of became who I am.”

Beginning at the Golden Horn Volunteer Fire Department, Taylor rose up the ranks from firefighter to training officer to fire chief.

Taylor was fire chief of Golden Horn right up until last year when he passed on the torch and became firefighter again.

“I promised my wife that when the new fire hall was built, I would step down and become just a firefighter,” said Taylor.

“And that’s exactly what I did.”

“But as long as I’m healthy and able to, I’ll always be a member of the Golden Horn Fire Hall,” he added.

Why does Taylor enjoy risking life and limb fighting fires?

“The biggest thing for me is when you go to a response, no matter what kind of incident it is, and you help those people,” he said.

“It’s a humble feeling where you know that you’ve helped somebody else out – I think it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

On top of the warm fuzzy feeling you’ll get helping other people out, volunteering can be a great way to receive free training.

The fire marshal’s office pays for volunteers to get their Class 3 driver’s licence, often bringing the test out to the community and providing the testing vehicle.

Any medicals that are required for this licence are also reimbursed.

It pays to teach the volunteers standard first aid, CPR level C, how to use a defibrillator, and oxygen administration.

All other training is covered, of course, and volunteers are paid $22 for each of the two training sessions held every month.

Special training and conferences are also covered with the fire marshal’s office footing the bill for flights and hotels.

Volunteers are paid $22 per hour when responding to calls, while fire chiefs earn between $300 and $500 per month.

If you’re interested in volunteering or looking for more information, feel free to contact the Yukon fire marshal.

And the Mount Lorne Volunteer Fire Department will be holding its annual general meeting 7 p.m. this Monday at its fire hall.

While the department will be looking for firefighters, it is also in need of volunteers to fill its executive and to act as dispatchers.

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com

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