Six new recruits at the Williams Lake Fire Department plus another eight recruits from last year have embarked on training equal to that of fire departments in larger centres, said deputy chief Rob Warnock.
“When we bring somebody in they start on their qualifications as a professional firefighter,” Warnock told the Tribune. “This year we are going through the College of the Rockies with them and they are starting their modules for the National Standard for Firefighter Professional Qualifications 1001.”
“It gives them the professional qualifications as if the guys were in Kamloops or Vancouver or Richmond. They all have those qualifications.”
There are 44 paid-on-call members in the department now, although Warnock said sometimes when a call goes out only 10 or even lower are available, especially if it is during the day and people cannot get away from their jobs.
There are now seven women in the department, including Joan Flaspohler, who is the assistant chief.
For the first four to six months, the new recruits train every Monday and Tuesday two to three hours a night working on the written material and then on top of that, they do written tests and practical exams.
“The recruits also do the ICS100 training which is the beginning of the incident command system. We do everything in-house except the Hazmat where we bring instructors in.”
Six members studied their driver instructor training on the weekend of March 16 and 17.
Last weekend, April 6-7, several members did their fire instructor two level course and at the end of April there will be an instructor coming in to train members in the S100 Fire Suppression and Safety Course.
“That’s the wild land firefighting course that goes over the safety and what they can expect when they are out there,” Warnock said.
For the course, Miocene Fire Chief Jason Ward, who is also a Senior Wildfire Officer of Prevention at the Cariboo Fire Centre, will be teaching the course, Warnock said.
In the fall the department will offer a safety officer program because half of the department needs to obtain that qualification as well.
“Basically the residents in and around Williams Lake get a professional fire department in which you would see in a big centre,” Warnock added.
“These guys are paid-on-call. They spend a lot of time in the first few years training and continuing training after that every Tuesday night and on weekends when we bring in other courses.”
For about $260,000 a year, Williams Lake has 44 professional paid-on-call firefighters, he added.
“Career firefighters make about $90,000 to $120,000 a year.”
Looking at the way things are greening up naturally, Warnock said the department will probably not be doing any fire mitigation burning as it has in the past.
“The way our winters have been in the last few years they are longer into the spring and once everything melts and it’s dry enough everything is green. And when it rains, everything greens up pretty quick.”
Warnock said the department also plans to go door-to-door in May to the Esler subdivision and Dog Creek Road area to meet residents to talk to them about firesmarting their properties.