Rural Highlands struggles to retain fire crews

There are plenty of empty hooks at both fire halls in Highlands.

There are plenty of empty hooks at both fire halls in Highlands.

Staffed with a small operational group of firefighters, Highlands Volunteer Fire Department is looking for more residents to fill its roster.

Ideally the department needs about 35 members, but it sitting at a mere 18. With less than ideal numbers fire Chief Guy Brisebois said he is quick to call in mutual aid when needed.

“The day (shifts) are pretty tricky for us because we don’t know who is going to show up,” Brisebois said.

All candidates for the department must be at least 19 years old, be physically fit and have a clear criminal record. Both men and women are encouraged to apply. “We provide all the training,” Brisebois said.

It’s not uncommon for someone to join the department and then decide they are not up for the training, usually physical work three to four hours per week Thursday evenings and some weekends.

Brisbois suspects Highlands has trouble retaining firefighters due to the district’s greying population. Many people who have served with the department have left as they have aged, and fewer young people are moving into the district.

In 2011 the department had six members join and about the same number leave. So far this year no one has signed on. A rural, heavily forested area, Highlands has just over 2,100 residents to draw from.

Firefighters in their 50s have told Brisebois that they are reluctant to retire from the department because there is no one to replace them.

Any young recruits who do join the department tend to be still living with their parents.

“Young guys move out of mom and dad’s house and since there is no apartment building, (they leave the district),” Brisebois said.

Years ago Highlands fire department would only accept homeowners as volunteer firefighters to ensure the force was staffed with people likely to stay in the district. With a struggle to get enough volunteers that stipulation was lifted.

“We couldn’t do it without the renters,” Brisebois said. Only a handful of the department’s members own homes in the district.

Some small fire departments try to find people who work within the municipality to add to the firefighter pool, but, as Brisebois points out, Highlands is a bedroom community without many businesses at all.

“It’s a rewarding experience,” said Brisebois, who has been with the department for 13 years. “But, it’s not for everyone.”

For more information on joining Highlands Volunteer Fire Department, call Brisebois at 250-920-6970.


Just Posted

Victoria Grizzlies’ goalie will honour friend in all he does

Kurtis Chapman lost his best friend earlier this month

Saanich teen helps save three people from the Gorge

53-year-old male who was submerged is expected to recover

Large fire destroys home on McClure Street in Victoria

Fire crews dispatched to the 1100-block shortly before noon Monday

Spencer Middle School enjoys jumps in sports enrolment numbers

Program gives students a sense of belonging, school pride

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

Comox Valley Valley lotto ticket worth $2 million

Someone who purchased a lottery ticket in the Comox Valley was chanelling… Continue reading

Women’s Expo seeks to empower women this weekend

Victoria Women’s Expo set for Saturday and Sunday at Pearkes Recreation Centre

Pro-Trump protest sign with F-word is OK, court rules

Judges say Ontario man can protest publicly, even using vulgar language

VIDEO: Police officer looking for distracted drivers gets hit by truck

Road safety investigator clipped by trailer while patrolling busy intersection

YVR wants you to help name three new puppies

Say hello to the Vancouver Airport’s new assistance pups

Man dies in crash on Island Highway

Man thrown from his vehicle, alcohol believed to be a factor in accident near Parksville

Suspect who attacked autistic man in Ontario could be from B.C.’s south coast: police

29-year-old man was sent to hospital with serious injuries

Privacy watchdog to explore Facebook leak

Canadian expert says his analytics company helped Trump campaign capitalize on private Facebook info

Most Read