A loss of interest has left
the Keremeos Volunteer Fire
Department putting out a fire of
a different kind.
Over the last several years,
membership has eroded and
numbers are now to the point the
department is scrambling at times
to get a truck out.
“It’s just the way of North
America volunteer departments,”
fire chief Jordy Bosscha said.
“Everyone is screaming for volunteers
and qualified members
are hard to come by.”
Currently there are 23 members
on the force, three of which
are high school students – two are
A full contingent would be
34 members including four high
“Without having enough
members it definitely delays our
response times. We always make
it to calls but we have been later
a few times than I would like,”
The volunteer force has been
under pressure this spring/summer
with some large call outs
including the Riverbed Bistro
Fire, which is still under investigation
by police, and the recent
grass fire on Lower Similkameen
Indian Band Land that left one
man homeless. Crews were at the
grass fire for more than 12 hours.
“It really wears us out. We
don’t have extra people to rely on
or call in,” he said.
In addition to fire calls, volunteer
fire departments attend
motor vehicle incidents, medical
calls and other agency assists
Bosscha said the pool of eligible
fire fighters to draw on in
the area is quite small when you
consider they need to be able
bodied, physically fit, able to take
direction and spend a lot of time
in the valley.
“They don’t necessarily need
to work here but they do need to
be home quite often to be effective,”
Jake MacDonald owner
of Keremeos Home Hardware
employs two firefighters at his
store and says he would never
hesitate to employ a firefighter.
“I haven’t known too many
firefighters that weren’t people of
good character,” he said.
MacDonald said the two firefighters
on staff are respectful
while working and only ask to
leave if it’s a heavy call.
“It’s no problem for them to
go whenever they need to. And
if any of our customers get upset
with it honestly I don’t want them
to be our customers. It could be
their house that’s burning down
or it could be their loved one
in a car. They aren’t just leaving
to drink Kool-Aid at the fire
hall. They’re leaving to potentially
save someone’s life or their
home,” he said.
MacDonald was a firefighter
himself about 15 years ago.
He served on the Keremeos fire
department for about five years.
At this point with responsibilities
at the store he can’t commit to
being part of the department.
He was surprised to find out
that Keremeos was hurting for
“When I was younger there
was a waiting list to volunteer on
the department. We weren’t making
big bucks doing it and neither
are the guys that do it now,” he
said. “People do this because they
want to give to their community.”
What you should know if
you’re interested in becoming a
A physical ability test and
medical exam are mandatory.
Training is approximately two
hours a week on Tuesdays with
specialized training available on
weekends and throughout the
Firefighters are paid a rate for
time training and call-outs.
The department has spots for
four high school students.