Since the new View Royal Public Safety Building became operational earlier this year, a steady stream of residents have stopped by to check it out.
Some are avid volunteers, but fewer still are people who have harboured a desire to drag a hose around, climb ladders and contribute to their community in a potentially more meaningful way.
Until Aug. 31, the View Royal Fire Department is accepting applications for residents who wish to become a volunteer firefighter.
Lt. Heath Bevan, the department’s full-time training officer, is overseeing the recruitment process to find four to six new volunteers. He says joining the ranks, even as a volunteer, requires a serious commitment that sometimes people don’t fully understand.
“We call it volunteering, but you’re an unpaid professional. We’re 911 (responders),” he says, adding that firefighters must carry a pager when on standby. “It’s almost more of a lifestyle. We’re at about 500 calls right now, so it’s basically two a day. We are quite busy for a volunteer department.”
While the process of getting shortlisted for the positions is pretty straightforward, Bevan says, the time and effort required in Thursday night training sessions and actually responding to calls surprises some people. “You might think that it’s three or four hours a week, but it’s probably more like six to eight hours.”
Selected applicants will be invited to an orientation night in early September. The session will see potential recruits tested in various scenarios designed to test their physical aptitude and their ability to handle situations that can arise during emergency calls.
For example, Bevan says, a ladder truck climb tests for possible fear of heights, while an exercise using self-contained breathing apparatus gives officers a glimpse into potential claustrophobia. Another test involving ground ladders gauges a person’s ability to follow instruction and work with a group.
Recruits sit in a personal interview by officers and other members of the View Royal Fire Association. It’s all about choosing people who can fit into the team, Bevan says. “You want to make sure you get the right people.”
He encourages interested residents to stop by the hall at 333 Island Hwy. for a chat even before submitting an application, to get a better sense of whether volunteer firefighting is for them.
Application forms are online at viewroyal.ca (follow links to the fire department page), or stop by the hall.