“I’ve always wanted to do volunteer firefighting,” says Nelson Tallio, one of the three new recruits who started training with the Keremeos Volunteer Fire Department on Saturday. Tallio, who works for the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, is a member for the Nuxalk Nation in Bella Coola. The Nuxalk Nation has its own firefighting crew but Tallio had no time to volunteer. Now, having lived in the Similkameen for 10 years, he is finally able to be part of a firefighting team.
New recruit, Stephen Taylor, has also wanted to be a volunteer firefighter for a while.
“I want to be a positive member of the community,” says Taylor who recently moved from Kelowna to work on an organic farm with the aim of someday owning his own organic farm.
The third recruit, Jason Wiebe, moved into the Similkameen two years ago to become the Minister of the Elim Tabernacle Church. When it comes to being a firefighter, Jason Wiebe has a good idea of what he’s let himself in for as he was a firefighter in Port Alice, Vancouver Island, for four years.
Putting the firefighters through their paces is Training Officer D’Arcy Bridgman. The recruits will be undertaking three full days of special rookie training on safety, self-contained breathing apparatus, hoses, ladders and search and rescue as well as joining in with the regular firefighters during their Tuesday evening practice night.
Being a volunteer firefighter means sometimes sitting down for a meal and not even tasting the food before the pager goes off. It can mean working in the blazing heat in the middle of the day or working in snow in the middle of the night. It means many hours of training when sometimes there isn’t a call for weeks and sometimes there are calls back to back. It can involve small fires or fully involved structure fires, helping with fender benders or cutting people out of cars. It can make a difference in people’s lives. Once a person becomes a firefighter their life is changed forever. The Keremeos firefighters welcome these dedicated new recruits into their team.