Fire department putting 911 call out for members

Keremeos Fire Department looking for volunteers to fill volunteer force.

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

on leave.

A full contingent would be

34 members including four high

school students.

“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,”

he said.

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

regularly.

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,”

he said.

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

volunteers.

“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

volunteer firefighter:

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

year.

Firefighters are paid a rate for

time training and call-outs.

The department has spots for

four high school students.

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